The moves made by GuySuCo and DDL to address alcohol consumption in Guyana are welcomed.
DDL has sought to reinforce the legal restrictions on underage drinking by asking their retailers to commit to following the law. A few years ago, Demerara Tobacco had done a similar exercise with preventing the sale of cigarettes to minors.
This first step is important, since many children are sent to buy alcohol for their parents’ consumption, and many of these children have reported feeling powerless, knowing that what they buy is going to cause problems and are often scared to say no.
DDL has sophisticated marketing experience to be able to also re-educate those who send children to buy liquor. At the same time, DDL would hopefully also tackle the problems of adult drinking in their future campaigns, and it would be nice to have had an additional statement like: “I declare that I will decline to sell or have anyone in my shop whose wife/mother/sister/children/family has asked me to refuse to sell liquor to that person.”
GuySuCo wants to encourage moderate drinking, according to the report in SN on 22 February, 2009. This is being done in collaboration with the Ministry of Health. The trouble though is that GuySuCo is reluctant to say: “Stop Drinking” and, in the article with the Occupational Health and Safety Officer, the campaign reflected a kind of nervous caution offending any worker.
That is valid given the industrial relations climate of GuySuCo. So, why not bring GAWU and NAACIE on board and have them openly participate in an approach which no longer endorses alcohol consumption. Has GAWU changed its position of the use of liquor at May Day parades and rallies? I remember walking behind a contingent and having alcohol passed down to me at 9am a few years ago.
The strategy of engaging the workers is important. There must be people in GuySuCo who do not consume alcohol, or who have struggled and have stopped drinking, at all levels of the industry. The involvement of those people in the campaign would show that responsible behaviour is possible with all workers.
We should be comparing the anti-smoking campaigns and the anti-drinking ones. There are more assertive steps to no-smoking, and there have been global steps to realign the tobacco industry.
Somehow, there is this fear still to do the same for alcohol. Guyanese should know that the propaganda about ‘alcohol having health benefits’ is usually about the use of red wine in combination with Mediterranean style diets (and lifestyles?). There are no known health benefits of rum, vodka, beer, which seem to be the choices of use here. The drinking patterns in Guyana are not only of alcoholism, but also of binge drinking at specific times.
There are many drinkers of all types who appear to be healthy and who are not involved in any incidents of social destruction. Many smokers live long lives, too, without dying from any cancers.
Our bodies have their own ways of tolerating narcotics, and we should then open a discussion on whether we should include marijuana as one of the narcotics of choice which could be freely available.
Prohibition of any kind is not recommended as a strategy, but the social prohibition which has worked for tobacco seems to be the strategy which might work for alcohol consumption. And this would include a heavy restriction on advertising and promotion of alcohol as part of a healthy ideal lifestyle.
Kudos to DDL and GuySuCo for starting their work to deal with the problems of alcohol consumption in Guyana. However, they should not limit themselves.
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