Social drinking and smoking seems to be a stress outlet among young persons and according to one young man this activity is rampant due to lack of youth related activities. These issues were raised at a Department of Youth Affair and Sports organized forum held to assist solving young persons problems in the Territory as part of the 2019 Caribbean Youth Day observance. The discussion centered around the theme “Confronting the Social Issues Impacting Education for an Economically Sustainable Region;” and was hosted by Kyla Forbes and Temulji Hughes the hosts of the youth centre radio programme ‘Let’s Be Real’.
What can best be described as a lively discourse commenced with the hosts throwing out the question of whether or not there was a trend of drinking and smoking permeating the Territory. Host Hughes asked: “There seems to be a culture of drinking and smoking weed – that seems to be the in-thing these days. Everyone is at a bar consuming alcohol. How many feel like that has become a coping mechanism?”
While co-host Forbes questioned: “Do we think that (smoking and drinking) is for leisure or do we think it has become now one of our main coping mechanisms among our young people?”
In response a young man pointed out that there is a wide variety of bars on the island and little other avenues for fun and relaxation. He said: “As it relates to drug abuse and drinking in Tortola I think the problem is kind of inevitable because we don’t have any other forms of…activities basically.”
He further noted that other sources of relaxation were necessary: “When you look at somewhere like Long Bush on Long Bush street alone you have at least ten bars. Tortola itself have too many bars and it does not have any other activities on the weekend but go to a bar, so it is kind of a problem that cannot really be faced unless we find other things to do,” the youth added.
When it was pointed out that the Territory also has a large number of churches and young persons should opt to go to church instead, the young man said: “Same people that go to the bars go to church, right after – the next day.”
The youth pointed out that peer pressure was also a contributor to why young people go to bars and drink: “Let’s be real everyone has friends, when you look on a group chat and see that all of your friends are going to a bar, you telling me every time you will chose solitary time at home and not go out,” the young man added.
Another young person disagreed with the views of the first commentator. She told the gathering: “I do not agree with your opinion because it is up to us to say that we are going to go to the bar and drink and smoke.”
She further noted that going to the bar is a choice and that there are other things that young persons can do in their spare time besides bar-hopping.
That point was also refuted by another person who agreed that there are not sufficient recreational activities. However, that young person noted that drinking and smoking was not an appropriate substitute.