Students wise up to danger of drink

September 29, 1995

An "alcohol awareness" campaign for students? This might seem a trifle unnecessary yet it is precisely what the National Union of Students and the alcohol advice group Drinkline launched this week at the appropriately abstemious surroundings of Church House in Westminster.

Drinkline says student unions are the biggest bulk buyers of beers and wines, and the availability of alcohol - usually at temptingly cheap prices - contributes to the fact that students aged 18 to 25 are the highest consumers in the country. Sarah Berger, director of Drinkline, said: "Students are surrounded by booze, and given that they are also newly independent socially and financially, it is not surprising that they get legless. Although this can be good fun - and we all did it when we were students, didn't we? - there is a very big downside."

The problems are detailed in the cartoon-based campaign bible, The Big Blue Book of Booze, sponsored by Comic Relief and distributed to all universities and colleges. Alongside some awesome facts - the macho tipple "Thunderbird Red" is so alcoholic that one bottle contains half the maximum weekly amount health experts recommend for men - it stresses that drunkenness is the cause of poor health, criminal behaviour, and death. But most emphasis is placed on the hottest topic of conversation in common rooms around the country: sexual performance.

"Men who drink regularly at unsafe levels risk impotence and infertility," it warns. On top of this, the dangers of unprotected sex in the age of AIDS are emphasised, especially in the light of statistics which show that 45 per cent of medium or heavy drinkers confessed that they had had sex with a person they would normally avoid, compared with 17 per cent of non or light drinkers.

Ms Berger denied that Drinkline is a teetotal pressure group, even though the booze booklet says that "if alcohol were to be discovered today it would almost certainly be as illegal as heroin". She said: "Alcohol is not wicked but it needs to be treated with respect."

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