IkPas behind the scenes: in conversation with research leader Rob Bovens

Alcohol researcher van Tranzo, research center for care and welfare at Tilburg University, Rob Bovens has been working in the (alcohol) addiction prevention. He is also 'a man of the first hour' when it comes to IkPas. Here you can read about his fascination for alcohol use, the cleverness of the alcohol industry and a 'IkPasje'.

Rob (1955) grew up with a father, mother and four brothers. As a child he sees his father enjoying a beer every now and then, but he is told 'not to be too crazy' from home. It was not until much later in his young career that he became involved in alcohol use and abuse as he conducted an investigation into drink-driving during his internship at the Department of Justice. Rob: “I visited prisoners who ended up behind bars for a short time because of drink-driving. These offenders had to take a course that taught them more about the dangers of 'drunk driving'. Through research I found out that such a course did have an effect. That is exactly where the fascination seed was planted.”

Joining forces

It was thanks to this experience that Rob saw what commonality and recognition does to the awareness of a person. “Addiction or excessive drinking touches so many themes in a person's life,” says Rob. “It affects your relationships, finances, health and your living situation, for example. When you hear from others that they struggle with the same things as you, it makes an impression. You learn from each other.” In the ten years that follow, Rob is national director of the Addiction Probation Service. Ultimately, he combines his knowledge and expertise with that of current IkPas campaign manager Martijn Planken, and together they create the 'Drink destroys more than you like' campaign.

You decide

In 2009 there will be something 'buzzing' again about young people and alcohol. A number of regions are taking the initiative themselves to set a good example to young people by taking a 40-day alcohol break. Rob: “In 2015 we poured a national sauce over these regional projects and that's how IkPas came about. And every year more people join. The fact that people want to participate often comes from a feeling of not being right. IkPas is also far from moralizing. The initiative lies with the people themselves. You decide whether, when and how much you drink. Most participants quickly feel that a break brings many benefits: better sleep, fitter, more concentrated, et cetera. They also become more aware of the role alcohol plays in their lives and in society in general.”

Fitting is common

When we ask Rob what the ambitions of IkPas are, he doesn't have to think long: “Fitting should become something very normal. Passing is possible and allowed at any time of the year. That you simply show with your wristband that you 'just do an IkPasje' and that nobody is surprised. That the doctor gives you a wristband, because he thinks you are improving from an alcohol break. That children grow up with the example that their parents regularly fit in, because they feel good about it. I would like to see that happen.”

Smart and crafty

The above is perhaps still future music for now; a new mindset simply takes time. And the alcohol industry cannot be silenced just like that. Rob: “I continue to be amazed at the cleverness of the alcohol industry. Their marketing is so crafty. Their advertisements are sophisticated and have such an associative effect that we equate 'drinking' with connection and fraternization. Young people also get this message clearly. The 0.0 beers are also smart. The alcohol industry is reaping the benefits of this. They can flirt with their social involvement – take a look at our thinking about the health of others – and they know how to make a direct connection with alcoholic beers with their 100% beer packaging.”

Training makes skilled

Rob himself has been fitting in for about eight years now. “I often run and feel good when I don't drink. It takes no effort, although I can appreciate a nice glass of wine or a good glass of beer. This year I'm participating in the 40-day break period. But I can also easily make the decision in September that I don't drink. The more you fit, the better you get at it.”

Can you imagine that you just pick a period in the year to 'fit'?

Let us know in a comment!


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