Knowledge is necessary to inspire, shape and sustain positive change, with its dissemination providing the conditions for this change to occur. Alcohol is no exception.
We cannot require anyone to learn about alcohol, no more than we can require them to learn about physics or the Brontë sisters, but everyone should have the chance.
An accurate understanding of alcohol based on scientific research offers a solid basis for us to safeguard our wellbeing, both as individuals and as a society.
Regulating alcohol prices, availability and ads are more effective as direct interventions, but education is necessary for these measures to be designed, justified and accepted.
Increasing the alcohol knowledge base of politicians, citizens and the media are preconditions for the implementation of effective alcohol policy.
An asset for individualists
A coherent understanding of alcohol is far better for us as individuals than relying on traditional rules of thumb, enabling us to avoid a wide array of misfortunes.
Those informed about alcohol can help themselves and others to avoid mistakes. Informed people can better help those who suffer alcohol harm and become a positive influence.
An understanding of the reasons for guidelines and regulations makes them far more likely to make people take heed than blind trust or irritation born of confusion.
The effects of alcohol are inherently misleading. We are bombarded by misleading ads with flimsy regulation and alcohol industry-run information platforms.
Inaccurate beliefs are therefore common, just as they are in stock market bubbles and politics. Grassroots education is the only way to put a lid on the spread of misconceived ideas.
Financial education does not provide a safeguard from financial mistakes, but it does make us justifiably wary and recognise the benefit of robust regulation.
And, should we fall prey to financial misfortune, we can find the financial knowledge we need to understand what went wrong and how to avoid it in future.
Reliable alcohol knowledge can fulfil a similar role, helping to improve the lives of those who embrace it, for next to nothing, and enabling us to make the best of mistakes.
Alcohol education does not offer immediate, measurable payoffs, but a lack of understanding rarely has positive outcomes in any other area. Alcohol should not be shrouded in mystery.
Education ranks low on the policymakers’ alcohol to-do list, but it still remains vital to achieving a less harmful relationship with alcohol long term.
Learning about alcohol, a topic with enormous social, psychological, economic, health and political reach, can help us engage more fully as citizens as well as students. ■