Changing booze culture? It's up to you

Last updated 05:00 18/12/2012

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The suggestions for changing Kiwi booze culture have mainly focused on what the government, education groups or the liquor industry can do. But what can you, the individual, do to improve the culture?

If large-scale drinking culture changes are ever to take place, it's the individual efforts of millions of New Zealanders that will make it happen. The government and other organisations can only do so much.

First, it helps to know the basics of alcohol, drinking and intoxication. No doubt, many of us feel that we already have a pretty good grasp on this. But we can always learn more. For example, if we all knew that a standard drink contained 10ml of alcohol and that it takes the body an hour to absorb it, this would make a large difference in itself.

If you're a drinker, you can help reduce the stigma toward non-drinkers. Refrain from mocking them for their choice and speak up if someone else is doing this. If you're a party host, supply a range of attractive non-alcoholic drinks. Supplying nothing but orange juice only reinforces the idea that alcohol is where all the fun is, and that non-drinkers don't really deserve to be there. This won't help the culture.

Conversely, if you're a non-drinker, refrain from attacking drinkers for their habit. It only annoys them and makes them more resistant to any other advice you might have.

If you notice a friend, family member or colleague with a drinking problem, you should immediately speak up.

Lastly, if you binge-drink with friends, ask whether you really want to keep doing this. It's very possible that most people in the group are drinking past their point of comfort to keep up with everyone else, and not risk being thought of as a 'wowser'. How about suggesting that you limit your drinks on a night out, at least once? If boredom is an issue, brainstorm to find something you can do. It might not be easy to be the one to do this, but if no one says anything, nothing changes.

What else can you and others, both drinkers and non-drinkers, do to change the culture?

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