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Govt looking at alcohol policy

Marketing and advertising to be reviewed
Published: 
Thursday, August 21, 2014

The high incidence of people being addicted to legal drugs in T&T are alarming and has prompted the Ministry of Health to begin formulating a national alcohol policy to review the advertising and marketing of alcoholic beverages to the public. Making the announcement yesterday, Health Minster Dr Fuad Khan said the results of a recent survey on substance abuse and addiction were responsible for the latest move.

Speaking with reporters following an awards ceremony at the National Alcohol and Drug Prevention Programme (Nadapp) Conference Room, Abercromby Street, Port-of-Spain, Khan said:

“The high incidence of young people abusing legal drugs has caused the ministry to review its policies. “We are producing a national alcohol policy which is being done right now to look at curtailing the sale of alcohol to young people.” 

Khan said the policy would be done much in the same way as the tobacco policy was done and which led to the Tobacco Control Act of 2009, which sought to prevent tobacco use by children, regulate tobacco use by individuals, enhance public awareness of the hazards of tobacco use and ensure individuals were provided with information to make more fully-informed decisions about using tobacco. Asked if a crackdown was looming, Khan explained:

“It is not a crackdown but rather a policy to look at the method of advertising to young people, making it look as though it is an exotic product and changing that type of marketing to one that shows there is a possibility of dangers associated with it. That is the type of policy we want.”

Khan’s comments were in keeping with Nadapp’s 2014 theme of anti-violence and substance abuse. Partnering with Nadapp for the third consecutive year to host the annual calypso competition, the Health Minister said he was heartened by this year’s theme as he questioned why young people were choosing to abuse both legal and illegal substances.

Claiming that “addiction is a disease,” Khan said an increase in the statistics—of young people in this country, to drugs and alcohol—had created a psychological and emotional dependence in addicts, as well as negatively impacting their families. Seeking to understand what motivated addicts, Khan said they, oftentimes, did not understand why they behaved the way they did. He revealed it was sometimes due to fear, shame or some other emotional condition that people resorted to substance abuse to numb their pain.

Appealing to parents and guardians to be vigilant, Khan said: “We are losing a lot of our young and old people because of substance abuse to legal drugs.” Telling the youngsters at the gathering there were many people in jail and other institutions because of their addiction to both legal and illegal substances, Khan urged everyone to get back on the right path and to refrain from abusing or becoming dependent on prescription drugs and other items, such as alcohol and tobacco.

Contacted yesterday and asked to respond to the national alcohol policy being formulated, officials from Angostura and Carib Brewery said they would wait until there was an official policy announcement before commenting. Copping first place for her calypso in the anti-substance abuse category was Rae-Ann Guerra of the San Juan North Secondary School with her song titled One Touch. She also received two other awards from Nadapp and the North Eastern Police Division (NEPD) for most outstanding performer. 

Ferdinand Smith, of Swaha College, placed second, while Naomi Vialva, of Arima Central Government School, placed third and Garfield Ryan, of Barataria South Secondary, placed fourth. Nadapp has been collaborating with NEPD to host the competition for the past three years, although the programme was launched in 2002. It was previously under the auspices of the Ministry of Community Development but has been moved to the Ministry of Health as local authorities increase efforts to combat addiction.