With underage drinking becoming a worrying problem in Hong Kong, the government is stepping up efforts to educate young people about the dangers of alcohol.
Working with youth and parent groups, schools, healthcare professionals and relevant government departments, the Department of Health on Thursday launched a new publicity campaign entitled “Young and Alcohol Free”.
Speaking at a launch event, an official involved in the campaign said surveys have “revealed that drinking is occurring more frequently and beginning at younger ages” in Hong Kong.
“Those who had the first sip when they were young are more likely to have heavier drinking as well as alcohol dependence and abuse in later life,” said Regina Ching, the head of the surveillance and epidemiology branch of the health department’s Centre for Health Protection.
Society needs all-out efforts to protect young people from drinking as adolescents are more vulnerable to the physical, social and mental harms of alcohol, the department said.
The call came as the department released on Thursday the results of a survey titled “Knowledge, Attitudes and Practices Study Pertaining to Alcohol Consumption among Adults in Hong Kong 2015″.
The survey showed that among the people who drank alcohol, as many as 43.1 percent admitted that they had their first drink before they turned 18.
And 16.6 percent of respondents who drank alcohol in the past 12 months said they had developed a drinking habit below the age of 18.
For the survey, researchers interviewed 2,500 people aged between 18 and 64. Of the total, 1,630 admitted to having had drinks.
Among students who attended the Student Health Service Centers and completed questionnaires in the school year 2015/16, the percentage of Primary Four students who engaged in binge-drinking was 3.4 percent, according to the department.
What’s more alarming is that a survey conducted by the Narcotics Division of the Security Bureau in the school year 2014/15 has revealed that 26 percent of primary school students have tasted alcohol, news website hk01.com noted.
A study conducted by the University of Hong Kong in 2013 revealed that 43.5 percent of primary school students were in the habit of drinking alcohol, with more than half of them saying alcohol mainly came from their parents and another 10 percent buying alcohol by themselves.
Dr. Lam Ming, a consultant psychiatrist at the Tuen Mun Alcohol and Drug Dependence Unit, said clinical observations have revealed that early use of alcohol has correlation to binge drinking and alcohol-related problems in adolescence and adulthood.
It has been proved that drinking alcohol can affect development of brain during adolescence and increase cancer risk for adults.
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