Disturbing alcohol-related stories continue to make headlines even after campaigns are launched every day to curb the vice that has devastating effects. This morning, one of the local dailies ran a story about youngsters who were arrested in a bar on Tuesday, for drinking, dancing and smoking. The group of about 230 children, aged between 9years and 17 years were rounded up at Jerry City Club. They claim that they normally go dancing at the place every other Sunday and since Tuesday was a public holiday, they took this opportunity to go partying. Irate people threatened to have the club demolished while the kids’ parents now want it closed down and the owners prosecuted. Although they were later released on bond, they are just a fraction of the many minors that are currently hooked to the vice of drinking while still underage.
The above story was frequently referenced by most of the speakers who took to the podium at the launch of an anti-underage drinking campaign dubbed Under 18 Asipewe by Kenya Breweries Limited (KBL). The campaign aims at addressing the root causes of underage drinking and coming up with ways of curbing the vice, through stakeholder forums and retail staff training across the country.
A research conducted by Ipsos Synovate showed that a majority of the underage consumers had their first drink between the ages of 12 and 16 years. They were introduced to this vice by their friends and relatives (parents and siblings). Others had their first drinks from bars, school or some retailers. Most of the under-age drinkers engage in this vice during festivities such as Christmas and over the school holidays where there is little monitoring from the parents and teachers. Boys in day schools are the worst affected followed by those in boarding schools then girls in day schools. Girls in boarding schools are relatively not affected as much.
“The ‘Under 18 Asipewe’ campaign will cascade the identified solutions downwards, through awareness creation on the real issues around underage drinking, introduction of development programmes and education at all levels. Additionally, we are not only focusing on retail staff from main stream outlets, but working with all players in the entertainment industry, supermarkets and keg outlets, so that they fully appreciate and take responsibility to reverse this trend,” said Eric Kiniti, KBL’s Corporate Relations Director.
These children, engage in drinking as a result of
a) Peer pressure and curiosity
This is the leading reason why under-age people are hooked to drinking. Peer pressure influences those who have not had alcohol before to become curious about drinking. Bad friends share tales of how they draw fulfilment from drinking which makes youngsters to experiment and before they know it, they become hooked to the vice.
b) Escapism from stress
Youth, and especially those below 18 years of age are frequently bombarded pressures such as high expectations in academics from parents, relationships and a host of other stress-generating issues. They turn to the bottle as a way of relieving this stress.
c) Dysfunctional families
Where families break up or there are constant fights in the families, minors are left without close people to sensitize them on the dangers of under-age drinking. They end up getting involved in this vice. The report by Ipsos Synovate indicates that children brought up by single parents, grandparents and guardians are more likely to engage in drinking as compared to those brought up by both parents who are happily together.
d) Boredom and desire to have fun
There is a wrong notion extended by the drinkers that drinking is a way of relaxation and having fun. Youth who are not actively engaged in any fun activity tend to borrow a leaf from the older drinkers. When they have too much time on their plate and little activity to keep them busy, they become bored and opt for the bottle.
e) Lack trusted friends and confidants
The modern parents claim to be too busy building their careers and expanding their businesses. Child care and upbringing is left in the hands of house helps. Children who find it hard to confide in these house helps opt for the bottle.
Under 18 Asipewe Campaign
Guidance and Counselling to kids at home and in school.