While the government has proposed amending existing laws to prohibit the sale of alcoholic drinks to people under 18 years old, minors have no trouble buying them from retail outlets, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports, citing the findings of a survey.
Currently, Hong Kong has no legislation banning the sale and supply of liquor to minors, although some businesses voluntarily restrict such sales.
A survey on drinking habits, jointly conducted by the New Century Forum and Sha Tin District Councilor Scarlett Pong Oi-lan from late March to mid-April this year, reveals that more than half of the 1,025 local respondents admitted having drunk alcohol before reaching the legal age of 18.
The percentage of respondents under the age 18 who have had alcohol every day during the past month has risen from zero in 2015 to 50 percent this year, Sing Tao Daily reported, citing the same survey.
The percentage of minors who have had over five glasses of wine in the past month has also risen from 25 percent to 81.8 percent during the period, the newspaper said.
Pong’s team sent two six-year-old boys and a 15-year-old girl to 14 convenience stores and supermarkets in Sha Tin to find out whether they could buy alcoholic drinks.
Results showed that only a few stores refused to sell alcohol to them, with the 15-year-old girl having been able to buy liquor in all the stores and the two six-year-olds having succeeded at 11 sites.
The success rate was almost 90 percent, which was much higher than the results from the previous two years, and the minors were never asked why they were buying alcohol.
Describing the results as “outrageous”, Pong lamented that the children who participated in this year’s inspections were the youngest ever to help the team.
She also said most stores do not provide enough training to their workers and voluntary restrictions on the sale of alcohol to minors are almost non-existent.
As such, enacting legislation to ban the practice is necessary to protect the youth from the harmful effects of drinking alcohol, she said.
For the law to become an effective deterrent, penalties for violation should include stiff fines and even jail terms, she added.
Pong also noted that the packaging and marketing of alcoholic drinks are becoming more geared toward the young.
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