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Underage drinking problem is the focus of Alcohol Awareness Month

The prevalence of underage drinking will be the focus of Alcohol Awareness Month to heighten public awareness on the social impact of alcohol and substance abuse in Bermuda.

Public Safety Minister Michael Dunkley officially launched the month-long series of events being hosted by CADA during the month of April, at a press conference yesterday.

Reflecting on the findings of the 2012 survey of Students on Knowledge and Attitudes of Drugs and Health, the Minister stressed that alcohol is the “second easiest drug to access”.

“The first-place students usually access it from parents and guardians, followed by access from their peers,” he said.

“Not surprisingly, the report reveals that most students currently using alcohol drink at home. It is apparent that we have a serious problem. It is Bermuda’s problem and its solution is Bermuda’s responsibility.

“We have developed a social culture that sets drinking alcohol as a rite of passage. These attitudes need to change. The reality is that alcoholism is a serious disease that has spread rapidly among our students from as young as 11 to 19 years old.”

Said the Minister: “This sad statistic proves there is no age limit to alcohol dependency. We can no longer take lightly what alcohol is doing to our children.

“As Minister of Public Safety, I, along with the rest of the Government of Bermuda, am committed to doing the right thing to prevent underage drinking and promote responsible drinking practices.

“As the summer draws near, a time that Bermudians typically associate with partying, let’s use this Alcohol Awareness Month to ensure that all of Bermuda is educated on responsible alcohol behaviour.”

Meanwhile, Acting Assistant Commissioner Martin Weekes said that behaviour “is directly linked to a wide range of problems and tragedies in Bermuda”. And he lamented the fact that police “sadly, are all too familiar with this”.

“We deal with the victims of domestic violence and their abusers; we deal with violence and assaults that occur in and around licensed premises; we deal with antisocial behaviours that create noise, litter, graffiti, loitering and other nuisances; and we deal with victims and perpetrators of many road collisions which are often the results of driving whilst impaired by alcohol, and particularly in the case of fatal collisions, the resulting heartbreak left behind for families to endure,” said Mr Weekes.

He noted that the role of police in these circumstances is primarily one of law enforcement. “The laws that relate to alcohol consumption were put in place to protect people from the actions of others, and to protect those who need protection from themselves,” he said.

“But in each case where we do this, it is always after the fact. The damage has already been done and in most cases, cannot be undone.”

Said Mr Weekes: “No amount of punitive action, no amount of jail time, no monetary fine can ever bring back a life; or heal the scars of an attack — both physical or emotional.

“There is much work to be done before that stage in the areas of education and prevention and we support CADA in its fight to get all of Bermuda involved.”

He also endorsed the call by CADA for roadside breath testing for motorists on Bermuda’s roads “as this will go a long way to deterring people from drinking and driving”.

But in the absence of legislation, he said: “There is still much that can be done in Bermuda to change the culture of drinking and driving such as providing alternative modes of transport home from a night out.”

The senior officer also noted that the Selective Traffic Enforcement Programme (STEP) has been running for the last month to clamp down “critical offences”.

Those offences include impaired driving, driving without due care, using electronic devices while driving and unfastened crash helmets.

Mr Weekes concluded: “I would like to say that on behalf of the Commissioner, the Officers and all the staff of the Bermuda Police Service, that we are proud to be working together with CADA and its partners in promoting this year’s Alcohol Awareness Month — and I am looking forward to our continued success in ‘Making Bermuda Safer’.”

Raising awareness: Pictured (from left) are Assistant Police Commisioner Martin Weekes, Minister of Public Safety Michael Dunkley, CADA chair Anthony Santucci and Shadow Minister for National Drug Control Kim Wilson show off the proclamation declaring April as Alcohol Awareness Month during a press conference yesterday (Photo by Mark Tatem)

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Published April 02, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated April 02, 2013 at 12:18 am)

Underage drinking problem is the focus of Alcohol Awareness Month

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