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“Irish approach is wrong: denies the distinction between use and abuse and criminalizes substances”

So to Winenews Michele Contel, secretary general of the Permanent Observatory on Youth and Alcohol, which focuses on consumer education
Michele Contel, Permanent Observatory on Youth and Alcohol

“The health warnings on wine and alcoholic beverages decided by Ireland take the wrong approach: they do not distinguish between use and abuse, they forgo education, they criminalize substances, and they do not help in effective behaviors”. Saying this, to WineNews, is not a voice “defending” the interests of the wine supply chain, but Michele Contel, secretary general of the Permanent Observatory on Youth and Alcohol.
Starting from the scourge of youth alcohol abuse, Contel acknowledges the seriousness of the problem and reiterates the importance of education: “from a general point of view, Italian consumers compared to the majority of Europeans, but also in other countries of the world, consume in moderation, mainly with meals and occasionally. On young people, the alarm is essentially on the under-18s, on modes of consumption that are totally divorced from competence, pleasure and knowledge of the product. From this point of view, the alarm is real, especially on some youth groups that are moving towards a North European type of consumption. Our culture sees a first type of tasting that is almost always associated with wine consumption, progressively there is a differentiation and diversification by young people. The Irish approach covers all alcoholic beverages, and in addition to obvious downsides from an economic standpoint it also has downsides from a social standpoint: it denies the distinction between use and abuse, forgoes education to instead have a coercive approach, criminalizes substances, and does not help with effective behaviors. The argument”, Contel continues, “risks being counterproductive for Europe itself, and not only for the Mediterranean countries where the centrality of wine is evident, but especially for a consumption model, the Mediterranean one, in which the presence of wine, but also of other alcoholic beverages, has always been associated with a dimension of real moderation, that is, the ability and competence to know how to handle the drink. Italy is the first country in the EU that has reduced its consumption by more than 25%, achieving this result without coercive policies but through self-regulation, as well as through an approach of attention to the person, to lifestyle, and to the integration of wine and other beverages into complex eating behavior, which explains why Italians know how to drink better and live longer”.
“Even though the European Union and the World Health Organization”, Contel continues, “prefer what they call evidence-based, prohibition-inspired approaches, and even though the issue of education is more complex and requires a longer investment over time, because it is more difficult to educate than to print labels in bottles or cans, we have the great strategic advantage of having a consumption behavior, an example and a connection between generations that helps the consumer to relate properly with respect to alcoholic beverages”, concludes Contel, secretary general of the Permanent Observatory on Youth and Alcohol.

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