Dear Editor – It is too often that while reading your paper my heart sinks to find it full of advertising for alcohol. I was especially alarmed and disappointed to read this paper on 11 May 2015, in which there were three full length colour pages of advertising for Solbrew.
Harmful use of alcohol is a serious problem in the Solomon Islands, strongly associated with accidents, injuries, chronic disease, crime and violence, especially violence against women.
Two out of three women in the Solomon Islands have experienced violence by an intimate partner.
Drunkenness of their partner is the most frequently reported situation leading to physical violence. Alcohol endangers the health of those who misuse it, and the safety and wellbeing of those around them. It can devastate families and communities.
These consequences of harmful alcohol use can be found within the stories written on these very pages.
I am therefore dismayed and unable to understand why an excessive amount of print space would be allocated to promoting this drug repeatedly in this paper, and in advertising disguised as a story on the launch party for an alcohol product.
This was not a newsworthy story.
The photographs included and the association of alcohol with the Mother’s Day weekend sent a dangerous message to our youth, by glamorising this drug and a very risky behaviour. Our young people especially should be protected from such pressure and enticement to consume alcohol.
As a public health medicine specialist, I am aggrieved that the hard work and prevention efforts of many in the health and social sector continually come up against the money, power and unchecked influence of alcohol companies.
I worry about the future that we are creating for our younger generation. We need to open our eyes to the toll that alcohol is taking on Solomon Islanders.
Fundamentally, we can no longer afford the high health and social costs of harmful alcohol use. It is time to decide what vision of the Solomon Islands we want for our children and grandchildren. It is time for change.
The voices of our communities need to be heard, voices that are presently drowned out by that of the alcohol industry.
Journalists can be a powerful catalyst for positive change by bringing these voices to the forefront, by starting the discussion about social responsibility in our society, by asking what ethical duties, moral obligations, and boundaries alcohol companies should have.
With this in mind, I believe this newspaper can set a high standard for responsible reporting on alcohol and its consequences.
I hope that this paper will also reconsider from where it sources its advertising revenue.
All of us have an important role to play in shaping the future of Solomon Islands. By working together we can ensure a safe and healthy environment in which our children and youth, and all Solomon Islanders, can thrive.
Dr Tara Kessaram