Free thoughts on binge drinking as a mother and a wine teacher.
Binge drinking is the new “hot” fashion or behaviour which young people are taking to in their droves.
The Oxford Dictionary defines binge drinking as: “A short period of uncontrolled indulgence in an activity especially eating or drinking”. You can’t possibly avoid knowing about this. It is on everyone’s mouth: politicians, health bodies, police, media, the drink industry and obviously parents. With easy access to alcohol, the young all too easily fall prey to heavy consumption and indeed addiction to alcohol. There lies the real danger. As I usually explain while visiting schools, the worst case scenario for boys under the influence is that they think they are invincible, that they can challenge and overwhelm anyone or save anyone while dangerously failed, girls take on a provocative attitude because they think they are in charge. When the entire group of friends is totally out of control every youth becomes highly vulnerable. The most dangerous consequence is permanent brain damage that is difficult to detect immediately and addiction.
So as a wine expert, passionate about her job, I am asking myself the following questions: “where do we stand with binge drinking behaviour and how can the trade take a responsible attitude? As a mother, I ask myself “what can I do to avoid or at least prevent my kids from falling into this habit”
In most, European countries, the facts are plain: underage drinking is falling. But binge drinking is more common among the 16-24 year olds in the UK as well as most European countries. The same decline is reported in the Netherlands since 1997 with nothing to do with population changes. France too has seen a marked declined in binge drinking after a long period of problems in this regard. Traditionally, France has not been a binge drinking country. So where is the problem and why do GP’s see ever more young consumers knocking at their doors?
Inevitably, information about the dangers of binge drinking with violent videos has had an impact on both teenagers and parents who instead of staying home visit their GP’s. Stricter controls in pubs and bars as well as banning big booze companies from sponsoring teenager and student events are measures that are helping to prevent binge drinking. Education is my motto. Wine and spirit are not the devil hidden but as everything in life: too much excess of it is and will remain dangerous. As a wine educator, I tend to teach my kids about the beauty of wine, the close link between mankind and nature and our huge cultural European heritage which had allowed the wine culture to reach every corner of the globe. We play a game: consumers are allowed to drink only if they can tell me what is in the bottle: grape variety, country of origin etc…And that in itself is a source of history and geography not to mention biology. It takes some time for them to be able to “guess” a wine but I am hoping it will give them substantial knowledge about what they are imbibing rather than “binge” it. Then, as a mother I would emphasise the “NO” attitude. And let me tell you it is increasingly in fashion. Parents are becoming more disciplined. This is not because society, the law and so on demand more discipline on the part of parents but, yes... teenager’s themselves are saying “we want our parents to be parents rather than good friends. We want them to do their jobs and say No!” Yes, we, parents, can still deny access or refuse our kids wines at parties. I sincerely think our younger generation is willing to take some responsibilities. With the help of the drink industry, easy access should be restricted and a good deal of common sense will result.
Interestingly, the alcohol problem is far more talked about than tobacco. Minimum legal age still varies within EU from 16 to 18 to buy cigarettes and it is not only cancer which threatens the abuser but more perverse damage not easily detectable however that’s another topic…
So before the festive periods begins tell your young loved them “NO” then buy a bottle of quality wine for them to keep until both the bottle and the drinker matures sufficiently to appreciate this unique tipple.
As for us older fuddy duddies, here’s to a good vintage…. savour it! Don’t binge!