Teenagers urged not to compromise future by drinking alcohol

12 Jun 13

680x220_HectorJohannesburg, 13 June 2013: As South Africa commemorates Youth Month, the You Decide Programme has urged the country’s teenagers to abstain from consuming alcohol, reminding them of the negative consequences to themselves and their future prospects.

You Decide is a programme designed to curb underage drinking. It runs as a public private partnership consisting of the Department of Trade and Industry (the DTI), National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) and the South African Breweries (SAB). The programme, which was launched in February 2012, has to date had face to face interactions to deal with this problem with 384 260 learners in 652 schools as well as 77 309 youth and parents in taxi rank activations across five provinces in its launch year.

The You Decide campaign was largely guided by local and international research, and will run over several years. It targets four key groups that influence a teenager:  teachers, parents, communities and their peers.

Underage drinking is a scourge that cuts across racial, class and cultural boundaries, affecting the rich, middle class and the poor. According to research, one out of every two teenagers in the average South African home uses alcohol regularly or sporadically, which is of great concern to us, given the potential harm to developing young bodies, ” said SAB Head of Public Policy and Strategy Integration Bongumusa Makhathini.

Chief Director at the National Liquor Authority in the Department of Trade and Industry, Ms Thezi Mabuza, believes it’s key that the liquor industry and adults set better examples for the youth. “It is futile for parents and other adults, including teachers, to show outrage and dismay at destructive behaviour, when the very same evening they are seen drunk in a tavern. Tavern owners too have a role to play. Liquor cannot be sold to teenagers, even if they claim to have been sent by their uncle or aunt.”

The Executive Chairperson of the NYDA Yeshen Pillay is concerned that teenagers may not be aware that underage drinking whilst appearing to be “cool, ” has negative consequences which could be life changing. “It’s important to continue to discourage teenagers from drinking and abusing liquor as this puts their lives at risk. This could include engaging in unprotected sexual activities and in the process exposing themselves to the possibility of contracting sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS, as well as potentially engaging in crime and violence, ” said Pillay.

Research shows that teenagers who use alcohol are three times more likely to be involved in violent crimes. Statistics also indicate that 67% of teens who drink before the age of 15 will go on to use illegal drugs - they are 22 times more likely to use marijuana, and 50 times more likely to use cocaine.

Teenagers say they are involved in underage drinking because they are bored, want to escape their circumstances, to rebel and for liquid courage.

The You Decide Programme is designed to show teens that the choices they make now can impact on their future positively or negatively. The campaign includes school visits through an interactive road show on underage drinking; an inter-school competition to solidify and drive home the messaging; lesson plans that are aligned to the curriculum for teachers; a practical guide for parents; resources for teens including counselling, reading materials, a website and Facebook page as well as a teen ambassador programme. Workshops are also held with parents and communities to raise awareness of, and identify ways to discourage, underage drinking.

In addition, taverns around the schools are visited to tell the taverners how important their role in preventing underage drinking is, by ensuring no under-18s are allowed in their premises. 

Tips for Teens

Many of the pitfalls of drinking before you are 18 are not really understood by teenagers. Here are some considerations to think about:

  1. You can’t get your teen years back. Don’t lose the chance to polish your growing skills now as you won’t get a second shot.
  2. Saying “no” to drinking in situations like at a party or social can be hard. The first time may be especially difficult, but keep at it, as it gets easier. Firstly, understand and prepare in your heart the reason for not wanting to drink – maybe you want a better future by focussing on sports or school, for religious reasons, the health consequences of teen drinking or you want to wait until its right (and legal). Don’t feel like you need to apologise, or blame your choice to abstain on others. Stand your ground without the need for excuses. It’s your right to say, “Not for me, thank you.”
  3. Even drinking small amounts as a teen can lower your defences. So if you want to avoid sexual activity you’re not ready for, or unnecessary sexual health risks, avoid drinking. The downside can include unplanned pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases and HIV, as well as being a victim or perpetrator of violent crime. More than 50% of rape sufferers say their incidents to place in occasions where they and/or the perpetrator were under the influence of alcohol.
  4. It’s a criminal offence for teens under 18 to be sold alcohol. If you’re caught and convicted for any infringement while under the influence, you will have a criminal record, possibly pay a huge fine or be jailed. Don’t end up in jail or limit your life plans because of underage drinking. Good jobs and being able to travel to many countries are not an option for criminal record holders.
  5. If you think you have a drinking problem, or you have a friend with a problem, don’t ignore it. It could happen again and it could get worse. Do something about it. Talk to them, or involve a teacher or even your friend’s parent or caregiver. If it’s yourself that you are concerned about, ask for help from someone older that you trust. For assistance you can also call the You Decide helpline (8am to 8pm daily), on 0800 33 33 77. Remember guys, the key to a successful future is in your hands!

For more information log onto www.youdecide.org.za
Help is also available on the You Decide helpline (8am to 8pm daily), on 0800 33 33 77

For further information, please contact:

Benedict Maaga - SAB Media Relations Manager
Tel: +27 11 881 8478
Cell: +27 79 890 7300
Email: Benedict.Maaga@za.sabmiller.com