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Binge drinking targeted in new city campaign

The city's Department of Health says too many

The city's Department of Health says too many New Yorkers are binge drinking. Photo Credit: Getty/Adam Berry

The city's health department, citing new data showing how New Yorkers are hurt by binge drinking, is starting a new campaign Monday to end the trend.

The 2012 survey results released yesterday found that one in five New Yorkers polled had been harmed by someone else's drinking in the prior six months. Among the ways they were victimized included physical assaults, unwanted sexual advances and humiliation.

Dr. Hillary Kunins, a deputy commissioner for the health department, said the print ads, which will appear in subways and bars starting in August and depict belligerent-looking bar patrons, will spur those drinkers to think twice before having another shot.

"Hopefully this will raise awareness of second-hand drinking and the idea that excessive drinking can put them and their friends at risk," she said.

The health department study, which was the first of its kind and surveyed 5,041 city adults, said 7% of New Yorkers got into a serious arguments because of someone else's drinking; 3% were hit or assaulted by a drunk person; 8% had to "baby-sit" or care for someone who drank too much and 3% experienced unwanted sexual advances by a drunk person.

About 52% of adults spent time with other drinkers in the previous 30 days and in most cases, the responders said the harmful drunk related incidents happened multiple times.

The health department defines binge drinking as having four or more drinks for a woman and five for a man in one sitting.

The ads, which will be in the bathrooms of 97 bars throughout August and September, warn New Yorkers to "Keep their friends from hurting themselves," and have the slogan "Cut them off before they've had too much."

Kunins said the campaign builds upon PSAs in the past like the "Two drinks ago" initiative that focused on the effects bingeing had on the drinker. Now, she said, the focus is on their friends and family.

"With these ads, we are either going to reach drinkers or people who spend time with drinkers," Kunins said.

Andrew Rigie the executive director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance, said his organization doesn't oppose the posters and added that it always instructs its members to serve alcohol responsibly.

Some New Yorkers weren't too keen on the ad campaign and said it wouldn't make a difference in curbing the rowdy incidents stemming from binge drinking.

"I think they should be going into the schools and colleges, explaining the risks," Alicia Sheppard, a manager of Molly Wee Pub in midtown said. "Does anyone notice the posters on the subway?"

Dr. Ralph Hingson, of the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, disagreed and commended the health department for spotlighting the effects bingeing has on the general populace. He likened the campaign to the second-hand smoke awareness ads.

"The key thing that people forget about is the cost of excessive drinking is paid by other people," he said.

Samuel Ball, the president and CEO of CASAColumbia, a Manhattan-based addiction policy and research center, said it's difficult to determine if the campaign will make a difference, but suggested that it should continue to keep second-hand drinking in the public eye.

"To see a significant reduction in the harms associated with heavy or binge drinking, a campaign would be needed that would be sustained for many years," he said in a statement.


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