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Trainee chefs' experiences of alcohol, tobacco and drug use.

1. Introduction

The workplace environment can be an important determinant of the physical and psychological wellbeing of employees (Bambra & Eikemo, 2009; Benavides, Benach, Diez-Roux, & Roman, 2000; Briner, 2000). Regular, meaningful and appropriate employment can provide numerous benefits to workers (Waddell & Burton, 2006). However, certain working conditions and work-related factors can lead to substantial adverse outcomes, including an increased risk of alcohol and other drug (AOD) use (Allsop & Pidd, 2001; Frone, 2013; Pidd & Roche, 2008).

Employee alcohol and drug use can have significant implications for workplaces and businesses. In Australia, lost productivity associated with alcohol and drug related illnesses, accidents, injuries and absenteeism has been estimated to cost businesses almost $11 billion per year (Collins & Lapsley, 2008). In order to reduce such costs, and to promote a safe and healthy working environment, a better understanding of workers' experiences of AOD use is required.

Previous research has identified that hospitality employees and young workers have a substantially higher prevalence of alcohol and drug use compared to other occupational groups (e.g., Berry, Pidd, Roche, & Harrison, 2007; Frone, 2006a, 2006b; Pidd, Roche, & Buisman-Pijlman, 2011; Pidd, Roche, Fischer, & McCarthy, 2014; Roche, Pidd, Bywood, & Freeman, 2008). These populations may have a unique perspective regarding AOD use and factors which may facilitate or perpetuate consumption. However, qualitative research which examines these issues is relatively scarce.

The current study therefore sought to extend previous research by exploring the nature and extent of AOD use among young workers employed in hospitality; specifically, trainee chefs. It further aimed to elucidate trainees' motivations for AOD use, and to inform strategies to prevent or minimise AOD use and related harms.

2. Literature review

2.1. Alcohol and drug use in hospitality

Australian research has found that hospitality employees have significantly higher rates of risky alcohol and illicit drug use compared to other industries (Berry et al., 2007; Roche et al., 2008). Australian hospitality employees are up to 3.5 times more likely than other workers to use alcohol or drugs at work or to attend work under the influence of alcohol or drugs (Pidd et al., 2011). These levels of elevated use remain even after controlling for demographic differences such as age and gender.

International research similarly indicates that hospitality employees have elevated alcohol and drug prevalence rates. Frone (2006a, 2006b) found that, after controlling for demographic factors, US food service workers were 2.8 times more likely than other workers to use illicit drugs, 6.3 time more likely to use illicit drugs at work, and 3.8 times more likely to drink alcohol during the work day. Other international studies have also identified high AOD prevalence rates among hospitality employees (Belhassen & Shani, 2012, 2013; Kjaerheim, Mykletun, Aasalnd, Haldorsen, & Andersen, 1995; Moore, Cunradi, Duke, & Ames, 2009; Pizam, 2012; Zhang & Snizek, 2003).

This research additionally indicates that patterns of AOD use can differ among hospitality occupations, with particularly high rates among food service employees (e.g. cooks and kitchen staff) (Belhassen & Shani, 2012; Duke, Ames, Moore, & Cunradi, 2013; Pizam, 2012). However, previous work in this area has typically drawn samples from a wide variety of occupations (e.g. waiters, bartenders, cooks) with different working conditions and environments, making generalisation to specific job roles problematic.

2.2. Young workers

Young new recruits to food service occupations may be especially vulnerable to risky AOD use. Research indicates that paid employment is positively associated with increased adolescent alcohol and drug use (Breslen & Adlaf, 2005; Johnson, 2004), and that workers under the age of 25 are more likely than older workers to drink at risky levels and use illicit drugs (Berry et al., 2007; Pidd, Shtangey, & Roche, 2008a, 2008b; Roche et al., 2008). Young employees are also more likely to report alcohol-related absenteeism (Roche, Pidd, Berry, & Harrison, 2008) and to use alcohol or drugs at work (Pidd et al., 2011).

Young workers employed in occupational groups with already high substance use rates, such as food service, may therefore be at particular risk. Despite this, little is known about young food service workers' perceptions and experiences of AOD use. One of the few studies undertaken with this population indicated that the prevalence of problem alcohol use among young US food service workers was high and varied according to job category (Moore et al., 2009). Recent Australian research similarly indicated that the prevalence of harmful AOD use among trainee chefs appears substantially higher than rates for the general population of the same age (Pidd et al., 2014). However, this research provides little information about potential drivers of, or contextual factors associated with, the observed high rates of substance use. In order to develop evidence-based strategies and promote a healthy and safe introduction to working life, it is important to explore workers' motivations for, and experiences of, AOD use.

2.3. Theories of employee alcohol and drug use

Employee alcohol and drug use is typically viewed as arising from either external or internal causes. The former perspective assumes the causes of employee alcohol and drug use to be external to the work environment, such as biological, psychological or social predispositions towards AOD use (Frone, 2003). By contrast, the internal perspective views employee alcohol and drug use as at least partially stemming from the work environment itself (Frone, 2003).

The internal perspective of employee AOD use in turn encompasses several theoretical approaches, including 'stress' (Frone, 1999), 'availability' (Ames & Grube, 1999), and 'social norms' (Ames & Janes, 1992). All three approaches have received support in the literature (e.g., Ames, Duke, Moore, & Cunradi, 2009; Ames, Grube, & Moore, 2000; Frone, 2003; Heikkila et al., 2012; Hodgins, Williams, & Munro, 2009). More detail on these three theories is provided below, including how they may be applied to food service and specifically commercial cookery.

The stress theory posits that individuals use alcohol or drugs to deal with physically and/or psychosocially stressful environments (Frone, 1999, 2003). Commercial kitchens are well known to involve challenging workplace conditions (Pratten, 2003; Pratten & O'Leary, 2007). Heat, noise, fast paced work, long irregular hours, excessive workloads, low pay, and repetitive, unchallenging work are commonplace (Johns & Menzel, 1999; Murray-Gibbons & Gibbons, 2007; Robinson & Barron, 2007). Commercial cookery employees also frequently report high levels of workplace violence, bullying and sexual harassment (Bloisi & Hoel, 2008; Murray-Gibbons & Gibbons, 2007; Poulston, 2008; Roche, Pidd, & Kostadinov, 2014). Chefs may thus engage in AOD use in an attempt to reduce tension or strain resulting from these factors (Murray-Gibbons & Gibbons, 2007).

Work stressors that are evident in commercial kitchens may be particularly important predictors of AOD use among younger employees. Research suggests that young workers may be more susceptible to work stress in general (Reicherts & Pihet, 2000), with bullying/victimisation an independent predictor of young people's alcohol use (Rospenda, Richman, Wolff, & Burke, 2013). Within commercial kitchens, younger workers are also more likely to be subjected to workplace bullying (Alexander, MacLaren, O'Gorman, & Taheri, 2012). However, reviews of research examining work stress and AOD use generally indicate only a weak relationship (Heikkila et al., 2012; Siegrist & Rodel, 2006). This may be due to narrow definitions of work stress (e.g., work load, job control) and a focus on overall alcohol consumption rather than other drug and context specific use (Frone, 2003, 2008).

In contrast to the stress theory, the availability approach proposes that factors within the workplace environment may restrict or enhance alcohol and drug availability and thus influence consumption. Availability relates to the ease with which alcohol or drugs can be obtained and consumed (Ames & Grube, 1999). Greater availability is associated with higher rates of employee alcohol and drug use (Trinkoff, Storr, & Wall, 1999). For example, allowing food service employees to be served alcohol at work (Kjaerheim et al., 1995), and the receipt of tips (resulting in an on-hand cash supply) (Zhu, Tews, Stafford, & George, 2011) can increase availability and subsequent AOD use. This theory is relevant to trainee chefs because many are employed in workplaces that store and sell alcohol, or are located in central entertainment districts where alcohol or drugs may be obtained with relative ease.

According to social norms theory, employees develop assumptions regarding acceptable levels of substance use based on unwritten rules which reflect collectively agreed-upon behaviours, attitudes and beliefs (Zhu et al., 2011). Individual alcohol and drug use behaviours are then modified to be consistent with these assumptions. From this perspective the degree of normative support for AOD use within a workplace or working group influences employees' consumption patterns (Ames & Janes, 1992). In support of this perspective, research has found that perceived co-worker norms for alcohol use are a strong predictor of heavy drinking among food service workers (Duke et al., 2013; Kjaerheim et al., 1995), as well as workers employed in other industries (Ames et al., 2000; Bacharach, Bamberger, & Sonnenstuhl, 2002).

Expanding on these theories, Ames and Janes (1992) propose that work-related risk factors for AOD use are best understood in terms of workplace culture that either supports or inhibits use. While also influenced by wider social, organisational and occupational cultures, the workplace can operate as distinct cultural environment that maintains norms, practices and beliefs concerning AOD use. Ames and Janes (1992) suggest that four cultural dimensions of the workplace may influence substance use: a) the normative regulation of use, b) the quality and organisation of the work environment, c) alcohol or drug use sub-cultures, and d) factors external to the workplace. More recently, Pidd and Roche (2008) have proposed an integrated cultural model of employee AOD use. This model postulates that employee alcohol and drug use is influenced by a range of interrelated factors. Specifically, workplaces contain stressors, controls and subcultures, and interactions between these factors result in an overall workplace culture that either encourages or discourages alcohol use. (Fig. 1)

A cultural approach may be particularly relevant to an examination of AOD use among trainee chefs. Previous research has demonstrated that chefs have a unique occupational culture (Robinson & Barron, 2007) that is relatively stable over time (Cameron, Gore, Desombre, & Riley, 1999). Importantly, it is often characterised by deviant behaviours such as violence and AOD use (Robinson, 2008). Upon entering the workforce, young chefs undergo a socialisation process whereby they acquire the unique skills, knowledge, norms and customs necessary to become integrated into the workforce (Feij, 1998; Robinson & Barron, 2007). This socialisation process is also likely to involve exposure to specific occupational culture, norms and behaviours regarding alcohol and drug use.

3. Current study

Research indicates that young food service workers may be at particular risk of problematic alcohol and drug use (Pidd et al., 2011, 2014). AOD use is associated with severe health and economic costs (AIHW., 2012; Collins & Lapsley, 2008), and consumption patterns formed during early adulthood may be difficult to alter in later years (Institute of Medicine, 1998). As a result, evidence-based strategies to reduce unhealthy behaviours among this population are greatly needed. A comprehensive understanding of young food service workers' AOD use is in turn necessary to inform the development of such strategies.

The objective of this study was therefore to extend previous research by exploring the extent and nature of AOD use among young Australian food service workers (specifically trainee chefs), including perceived drivers of use and implications for prevention strategies.
Fig.1. Integrated cultural model Pidd & Roche, 2008.

Workplace customs and practices

These consist of:

* workplace subcultures

* workplace social networks

* the industrial relations climate

* co-worker behavioural norms at work

* co-worker behavioural norms in work-related social settings

* administrative/management culture

Workplace conditions

These consist of physical factors that can impact directly on
drinking or indirectly via stress or alienation such as:

* dangerous work

* shiftwork

* physical conditions of the workplace

* task complexity

* lack of control over the pace or planning a of work

External Factors

These include those factors external to
the workplace that can influence the workplace culture regarding

* workers' pre-existing attitudes, beliefs and behaviours regarding

* the values, behaviours and expectations of family members

* the social and cultural norms of the wider community

Control factors

These include those factors contributing to alcohol availability
in the workplace:

* physical and social availability

* alcohol policy and procedures

* supervision levels

* low visibility of workers

The following research questions were addressed:

1. What are young trainee chefs' experiences of alcohol and other drug use in commercial cookery?

2. What are the risk factors for use among this population?

3. Are identified risk factors consistent with existing theories of employee alcohol and drug use?

4. What implications do these results have for prevention strategies?

4. Methodology

Participants were a purposive sample of second year trainee chefs enrolled in commercial cookery courses at two major NSW Technical and Further Education (TAFE) colleges. TAFEs typically offer Vocational Educational and Training (VET) courses in trades and para-professional occupations. Participants attended training one day a week at TAFE premises and worked full time in the hospitality industry four days a week. Participants were limited to trainee chefs (excluding other kitchen staff) as a heterogeneous sample exposed to different work roles and conditions would introduce confounding factors.

All second year commercial cookery students present at TAFE premises were invited to participate. The sample was confined to second year students to ensure that participants had sufficient exposure to their work environments to comment on work experiences. Participants were provided with a written description of the study's method and purpose, given consent forms and allocated to a focus group. Participation was voluntary and trainees could leave without repercussions.

Nine focus groups involving a total of 69 participants were undertaken in order to explore the issues of interest in a comprehensive and in-depth manner. Focus groups were chosen for their ability to provide insights into the meanings, experiences, and cultural practices of participants (Rakow, 2011). Focus groups are particularly useful for exploring participants' knowledge and experiences, and interpersonal communication between participants can provide insight into cultural values and group norms (Kitzinger, 1995). Each focus group comprised pre-existing groups, which allowed observation of naturally occurring interactions (Kitzinger, 1995).

Focus group sessions ran for approximately 60-90 min and took place during normal TAFE training class times. Groups were facilitated by two members of the research team. Discussion centred on trainees' work experiences and conditions as well as a range of individual behaviours including AOD use. A semi-structured interview schedule and stimulus materials were used to guide the discussion and encourage open and frank coverage of topics. Focus group discussions were recorded on a digital voice recorder following participant approval.

Data from the discussions were transcribed from recordings and facilitators' notes and examined for common themes. A thematic analysis was undertaken to identify repeated patterns of meaning, generate analytic categories and identify emerging themes. Themes were then analysed, organised and collated into domains.

Ethics approval was obtained from Flinders University Social and Behavioural Research Ethics Committee. Permission to conduct the research with TAFE trainees was provided by TAFE NSW.

5. Findings

5.1. Sample demographics

A total of 69 trainees participated in the study (43 males and 26 females). Most were aged between 18 and 24 years. The majority worked in commercial kitchens across a range of settings including small cafes, restaurants, hotels, and commercial catering.

5.2. Prevalence and perceptions of alcohol and drug use

Trainees reported that alcohol and other drug use was very common among commercial cookery workers. Smoking and alcohol use were ubiquitous, while cannabis and amphetamines were the most frequently used illicit drugs. Most drug and alcohol use occurred after work had finished, however a minority of participants also reported observing or suspecting use during work hours. Substance use during work was more common in smaller organisations, and less likely in larger organisations with human resource departments.

"Everyone in my kitchen does weed. Yeah marijuana--everyone smokes mainly after work. You wouldn't believe. It's (cannabis use) very common."

Tobacco use was perceived to be more prevalent in the hospitality industry than in other sectors. It was also perceived to be influenced by working conditions.

"I don't know about other drugs, but a lot of people smoke cigarettes. I am sure the number of people who smoke in hospitality is higher than in other jobs I've had."

By contrast, although trainees perceived alcohol and illicit drug use to be common in hospitality, most believed it to be equally prevalent in other industries. Substance use was felt to be largely due to individual factors such as personal choice or personality, rather than a consequence of workplace factors.

"There's a lot of drinking and a fair bit of speed and cannabis, but it's the same everywhere--not just in hospitality."

"It's a party thing, it's a personal choice--it has nothing to do with work."

Despite this professed belief, trainees' statements about alcohol and drug use indicated that workplace factors did play a substantial role. Thematic analyses identified that the stressful working environment, long hours and ubiquitous nature of substance use facilitated and encouraged the use of alcohol, tobacco and drugs, while simultaneously impeding trainees' efforts to quit or abstain. These themes are explored in more detail below.

5.3. Stress and coping

Participants reported that commercial cookery often involved long shifts that were physically demanding, stressful, and fast paced. These conditions, combined with a potentially hazardous environment, often resulted in work being psychologically and emotionally draining. Alcohol and drug use was perceived by participants as a common method for dealing with these challenging aspects of commercial cookery. At times, illicit drugs (stimulants) were reported to be used to stay alert for long shifts.

"Sometimes it's because of the hours we work. A friend of mine worked for about a week only getting 3-4 hours sleep between shifts and the only way he got through it was with speed (amphetamines)."

Cigarette smoking was similarly used as a strategy for dealing with long and stressful working hours. The pace of work, especially during service, was often so pressured and relentless that getting a break could be difficult. Smoke breaks were one of the few legitimate options available to take a sanctioned rest.

"It's just a way to get five minutes out of the kitchen."

The practice of having a smoke break appeared to be condoned and even encouraged. Many trainees reported that while taking a break just to rest was often discouraged, having a smoke break was considered more acceptable.

"If you are outside taking a break and chef asks what are you doing here? And you say--just having a smoke--he'll say--oh ok that's fine. But if you say--having a break--you'll cop it."

The approval of smokers taking smoke breaks was generally disliked by non-smokers because they saw it as unfair and inequitable. The functional purpose it served also appeared to reinforce trainees' smoking status and acted as a substantial disincentive to quitting.

"It's a really hard industry to work in while trying to give up."

Alternatively, alcohol and drug use were also frequently associated with "winding down" or relaxing after the stress of service. Cannabis use in particular was a commonly reported strategy to cope with the rigours of work and work stress.

"Some people do use to be high at work, but dope (cannabis) use mainly happens after work, mainly to chill out after the stress."

5.4. Socialising and "playing catch up"

As trainees frequently worked different hours to their friends and family, socialising with colleagues was a common and valued aspect of hospitality work. Workplace social practices and social networks appeared to facilitate access to, and use of, alcohol and drugs. AOD use, and in particular alcohol consumption, was seen as an aid to social interaction and bonding with co-workers and supervisors. Staff drinks ("staffies") after each shift were commonplace, and on occasion these would continue at other venues as a social event. This served to reinforce the culture of alcohol and drug use within the organisation.

"We usually have free drinks at work when we finish. It's the time of day you look forward to especially when you like the people you work with. It's more common on Saturdays and we often go out together afterwards."

Social influences similarly played a role in smoking patterns. In particular, some trainees reported that smoking provided an opportunity to interact on a social level with supervisors.

"Sometimes I go out to have a cigarette with him (the chef). Why?--mainly to talk shit with him. It's a good way to get to know your boss better."

When trainees did attempt to socialise with friends outside their work-group, this was often hindered by the long and irregular hours they worked. It was common for trainees to finish work in the early hours of the morning, by which time their friends had already been drinking and socialising for several hours. As a result, many participants reported drinking heavily or using drugs in order to "catch up" to the others.

"It happens a lot--playing catch up--drinking a lot quickly or taking something so you can be like your friends and have a good time".

5.5. Fitting in: "Everybody does it"

A particularly strong influence on trainees' alcohol and drug consumption was the pervasive culture of substance use. The high prevalence of smoking, alcohol and drug use among both coworkers and superiors resulted in a culture within commercial cookery where alcohol and drug use was both commonplace and socially acceptable. This resulted in a self-perpetuating cycle where the substance use culture encouraged new workers to drink, smoke and/or use illicit drugs, which in turn strengthened and reinforced the culture of use.

"The hours and the stress are probably a part of it, but it's easy to get in the industry, everyone drinks and smokes, it's more accepted."

The substance use culture within commercial cookery at times also resulted in new workers feeling pressured to begin, continue or increase AOD use in order to 'fit in'. Some trainees reported that they felt obliged to participate in drinking or smoking in order to avoid the disapprobation of their colleagues or supervisors.

"With staffies I only stay and have them to fit in. I know they would not like it and talk about me if I didn't stay because they have done it with others."

"Yeah nearly everyone smokes. I don't smoke but I have thought about taking it up because everyone around me at work smokes and I sort of want to fit in, yeah I have thought about it, just to fit in and go outside with them and have a smoke."

Furthermore, those wishing to quit or reduce their alcohol and drug use reported that the high prevalence acted as a substantial impediment to doing so.

"It's really hard to quit because everyone else smokes."

5.6. Easy access

Trainees reported that alcohol and drugs were easily accessible within the work environment. This was in part due to the nature of commercial cookery (i.e. most restaurants and hotels have attached bars) and in part a result of the pervasive substance use culture. The ease with which trainees could access alcohol or drugs further served to encourage and facilitate use.

"Once you're in the industry access is so much easier. Everybody does it, if you were to ask where I work, probably five people could get what you want. We know who has the drugs and how to get them."

6. Discussion

This study explored the experiences of young trainee chefs and the work-related factors which influence their alcohol and drug use. It is one of few studies to have examined this aspect of the commercial cookery working environment. The most notable finding was that work conditions played a substantial role in facilitating and encouraging AOD use, but trainees typically appeared unaware of the role played by environment in perpetuating these behaviours. As little research has previously examined health and wellbeing interventions for trainee chefs, the novel findings and implications arising from this study may inform strategies to reduce harmful alcohol and drug use among this population.

This study makes an important contribution to the extant literature in several ways. First, it considers several theories of employee substance use simultaneously, in order to promote a comprehensive understanding of the issues involved. Second, unlike much previous research, it includes smoking and illicit drug use in addition to alcohol consumption. Finally, it focusses on the relatively under-researched population of young chefs, who may potentially have unique perspectives and experiences of AOD use.

6.1. Trainees' perceptions of alcohol and drug use

This study's findings are consistent with previous research that reports high rates of alcohol and drug use among hospitality and commercial cookery workers (Frone, 2006a, 2006b; Pidd et al., 2014; Pizam, 2012). Cannabis and amphetamines were the most commonly used illicit drugs, while alcohol and tobacco use were ubiquitous among this cohort of young trainees. Many trainees perceived the extent and nature of alcohol and drug use in hospitality to be comparable to other industries. Furthermore, there was a general perception that substance use was not related to or influenced by working conditions; instead it was seen to be due to individual factors such as personal choice or personality. However, focus group discussions revealed that workplace factors played a substantial role in workers' consumption patterns. In particular, work stress, long and irregular hours, social networks and social norms were found to strongly influence alcohol and drug use.

Misconceptions regarding the prevalence of, and reasons for, alcohol and drug use could potentially have several negative consequences. Firstly, believing alcohol and drug use to be equally prevalent in other industries may serve to normalise and reinforce risky levels of consumption, and encourage trainees in their own use. The social norms approach to alcohol consumption posits that young adults often overestimate the alcohol consumption of their peers, thus perceiving their own drinking as unproblematic. This can act as a disincentive to decrease consumption levels (Bertholet, Gaume, Faouzi, Daeppen, & Gmel, 2011; Borsari & Carey, 2003). Additionally, being unaware of the influence of working conditions on substance use precludes the possibility of learning and implementing more adaptive healthy coping strategies. Attributing alcohol or drug use solely to personal choice may also reinforce substance use as a coping strategy in other stressful situations.

6.2. Theories of employee alcohol and drug use

The findings reported here provide support for several theoretical models of employee alcohol and drug use. Work stress, social networks, ease of accessibility and social norms were found to impact significantly on participants' patterns of AOD consumption. These results support the stress, availability and cultural theories of employee substance use.

6.2.1. Work stress

Physically or psychologically demanding work has been found to lead to high levels of work stress, which in turn is associated with increased alcohol (and other drug) use (Frone, 1999; Grunberg, Moore, Anderson-Connolly, & Greenberg, 1999; Grunberg, Moore, & Greenberg, 1998). This theory was supported in the current study, where alcohol and/or cannabis were frequently used to "wind down" or relax after the stress of service. Similarly, "smoke breaks" were perceived as one of the few legitimate options available to trainees to take a short break during work hours. Use of amphetamines was also reported to sustain energy levels through long and arduous shifts.

The long and irregular hours involved in commercial cookery can also increase work stress and thus indirectly promote the use of alcohol and drugs as a coping mechanism. However, this study indicates that long hours may additionally influence workers' consumption patterns directly. After finishing work late at night, trainees were found to drink heavily and/or use drugs in order to "catch up" with their friends, who had already been drinking for several hours. This is consistent with longitudinal research examining the relationship between working hours and alcohol-related problems: long and irregular hours have been found to be associated with more frequent alcohol use and higher rates of alcohol abuse and/or dependence (Gibb, Fergusson, & Horwood, 2012).

6.2.2. Availability and social norms

The availability of alcohol and drugs was also found to be related to consumption patterns. Trainees reported that alcohol and drugs were both readily available and accessible; after work drinks were often provided free to staff and several trainees stated that coworkers had access to illegal drugs. These results support Frone's (2003) findings that workplace availability is an important influence on substance use both during and after work hours.

Results of the current study similarly indicate that workers in commercial cookery are exposed to social norms which promote risky alcohol and drug use. Specifically, the high prevalence of alcohol and drug use within commercial kitchens was found to result in an environment where AOD use was perceived as both common and socially acceptable. At times, this perception overtly encouraged use among young workers and/or discouraged abstention. These findings are consistent with previous research demonstrating that co-worker AOD use and pressure to drink is associated with high levels of use (Frone, 2003; Kjaerheim et al., 1995; Moore et al., 2009).

6.2.3. Culture

This study found that work stress, long and irregular hours, social networks and social norms associated with commercial cookery resulted in a culture which encouraged and facilitated AOD use, while simultaneously impeding attempts to reduce or stop use. Alcohol, tobacco and illicit drugs were easily accessible and even perceived to be beneficial. They provided energy to get through long shifts, opportunities for socialisation, relaxation after work, and an acceptable reason to take breaks. This resulted in a culture where alcohol and drug use was perceived to be frequent, acceptable, and at times required in order to 'fit in'. In turn, the prevalence and "benefits" of use encouraged uptake by new employees and hindered those wishing to cut down or stop their consumption, reinforcing the culture of use and perpetuating the cycle. According to social identity theory, individuals adopt behaviours identified as the norm for a particular group in order to establish their membership within that group (Hogg, Abrams, Otten, & Hinkle, 2004). The influence of culture on AOD use may therefore be particularly relevant to young new entrants who seek to create a career and occupational identity as a chef.

These results are consistent with theories of employee AOD use which emphasise the role of workplace conditions, practices and customs in influencing the prevalence and acceptability of alcohol and drug use (Ames & Grube, 1999; Ames & Janes, 1992; Pidd & Roche, 2008). However, it is also possible that substance users may self-select into hospitality due to the industry's support of AOD use (Zhu et al., 2011). In order to explore this possibility further, future research could examine the attitudes and behaviours of young students before they begin their cookery training.

6.3. Implications for prevention

The present findings identified high rates of alcohol and drug use within Australian commercial kitchens. This suggests that many employers are failing in their duty of care to provide safe and healthy working environments for employees. As AOD use is associated with low productivity (Collins & Lapsley, 2008) as well as poor physical and mental health (AIHW., 2012), interventions which prevent or minimise consumption are in the best interest of both employees and employers. The insights gained from this study may help to inform the development of such interventions. In particular, results emphasise the need for interventions to target not only individual trainees, but also the workplace environment.

This study found that work stress, social networks, ease of accessibility and social norms promote AOD use within commercial kitchens. As such, interventions should seek to address and ameliorate these factors at an organisational level. Examples of this could include stopping the practice of free after work drinks, or allowing regular breaks for all employees (thus negating the need for "smoke breaks"). Modifying the workplace culture in this way could make employee AOD use both more difficult and less desirable.

However, the majority of trainees in this study were unaware of the impact of working conditions on AOD use, and perceived consumption to be equally prevalent in other industries. This suggests that interventions should additionally include strategies to raise trainees' awareness of the influence of the workplace, and build their capacity to utilise constructive coping strategies rather than resorting to AOD use. Previous research has found that adaptive coping strategies can mediate the relationship between work stress and alcohol consumption (Frone, 1999), indicating that this may be a fruitful avenue for future prevention efforts.

Furthermore, this study highlighted that alcohol and drug use at work, and risky consumption after work, is generally well accepted by both employees and managers. This indicates that they may not be aware of the health and safety implications of such patterns of consumption. Thus any intervention should also include safe use and harm minimisation messages, and information concerning the implications of AOD use.

Scope exists for both organisations and TAFEs to play a role in promoting healthy working environments. Given that this study indicated AOD use may be more common in smaller organisations without human resource departments, it is possible that policies and procedures regarding AOD use may be more clearly communicated and/or enforced where organisations have human resource divisions. This suggests that organisations can help to reduce alcohol and drug use among employees by implementing or raising awareness of AOD policies. Untapped opportunities also exist for TAFE to better prepare trainees for the impending stressors and pressures of their work roles. Strengthening resilience and improving coping strategies may help to counteract the numerous workplace pressures that may contribute to the uptake, or exacerbate the use of, alcohol, tobacco and other drugs.

6.4. Study limitations

Focus groups involve potential limitations. Participants in the focus groups may not represent the broader trainee chef population. However, the sample was relatively large for a qualitative study of this type and the high degree of consistency between present findings and previous research suggests that results are indicative of trends both in Australia and overseas. Nonetheless, caution should be exercised in generalising results to a broader Australian or international context. Another limitation of focus group methodology is that response quality may be subject to participant recollection of events and their judgement of what is worthy of mentioning (Silverman, 2000). In order to address this, the current study utilised multiple focus groups, allowing multiple perspectives of the same issues to be generated and maximising data quality. However, given that the use of focus groups, as with any stand-alone research methodology, is subject to potential limitations (Kidd & Parshall, 2000), future research could utilise quantitative methodologies with a larger sample size to consolidate and extend these results.

7. Conclusions

This study highlights the vulnerability of new entrants to commercial cookery and underscores untapped opportunities for preventative actions and interventions to safeguard the wellbeing of young workers. It also confirms previous research that reports a high degree of AOD use within commercial cookery. Workplace factors such as stress, availability and social norms can contribute to a culture that encourages and facilitates the use of alcohol, tobacco and illicit drugs. However, many young trainees appear to be unaware of the influence of these factors. As such, interventions should not only target workplace conditions, but also seek to educate employees about their significance. Important opportunities exist to increase the health and wellbeing of young workers, and to prevent the emergence of alcohol and drug use patterns that may be harmful to them in the short and long term.


Article history:

Received 10 February 2014

Received in revised form

24 September 2014

Accepted 2 October 2014

Available online 1 November 2014


This study was undertaken with financial support from the National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre and the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing. The authors would like to thank all participants who gave their time to participate in this research. Thanks are also owed to Jane Fisher from NSW TAFE who helped to support this project, and Michael White for his assistance with data collection.


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Ken Pidd, Ann Roche *, Victoria Kostadinov

National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction (NCETA), Flinders University, GPO Box 2100, Adelaide, SA 5001, Australia

* Corresponding author. Tel.: +61 8 8201 7535; fax: +61 8 8201 7550.

E-mail addresses: (K. Pidd), (A. Roche), (V. Kostadinov).
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Author:Pidd, Ken; Roche, Ann; Kostadinov, Victoria
Publication:Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Management
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Jan 1, 2014
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