The recurrent theme of "responsible drinking" in educational programs and media campaigns aimed at preventing alcohol abuse is discussed and criticized. There is general agreement that people's behavior relative to alcohol consumption causes physical, psychological, economic, and/or social damage. Reasons for such behavior are frequently discussed in psychological, cultural, and sociological terms but seldom in economic terms. Proposed and actual programs to foster responsible drinking define this form of drinking as the use of alcoholic beverages by an individual in a way that does not lead to damage. Advocates of responsible drinking neglect the fact that there is wide disparity between a consumption level not apt to lead to damage and an average consumption level for society which could cause a high level of alcohol-related damage. Data on the impact of several media campaigns in Canada show that little attitude change was produced. Even if attitude change could be demonstrated, this would not necessarily mean that desired behavior change would be achieved. Based on the distribution of consumption approach to understanding alcohol-related damage, it is suggested that the problem of changing behavior can best be addressed by social policy that manipulates market and other environmental variables controlling the availability and accessibility of alcoholic beverages. This approach to primary prevention dictates that public educational campaigns may best be used to convince the general public of the need for specific alcohol control measures designed to prevent the rising incidence of alcohol-related damage.

  • Corporate Authors:

    Pergamon Press, Incorporated

    Headington Hill Hall
    Oxford OX30BW,    
  • Authors:
    • Whitehead, P C
  • Publication Date: 1979

Media Info

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 00391481
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Source Agency: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
  • Report/Paper Numbers: HS-028 829
  • Files: HSL, USDOT
  • Created Date: Dec 30 1984 12:00AM