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Report shows youth drinking still a concern

Media release from ALAC
For immediate release
09 August 2002

New report shows youth drinking still cause for concern

New research shows that the number of young people drinking to such an extent that they could harm themselves or others remains worryingly high, although no worse than a year ago, according to the latest Alcohol Advisory Council Youth Drinking Monitor.

Despite the research showing a small downward trend in the numbers of young people reporting that their parents are supplying them with alcohol to take to unsupervised functions, young people are still finding it is remarkably easy to get hold of alcohol and a third of 14-17 year olds are drinking heavily.

Alcohol Advisory Council CEO, Dr Mike MacAvoy says the research shows an established and serious trend. He says while the research shows numbers haven’t increased over the last few years, “not a lot has changed – it’s no worse, certainly not much better, but hopefully the drop in numbers of parents supplying their kids shows there’s more concern out there among parents and the community.”

Dr MacAvoy says ALAC believes there are steps that can be taken to help address youth drinking. Adult behaviour, price of liquor and enforcement of the Sale of Liquor Act are three areas he identifies.

“Adults need to take a hard look at their own behaviour around supply and role modelling. Parents in particular, are often suppliers of both alcohol itself and money to buy it. They are also role models for their kids’ drinking behaviour.

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“It’s not easy for parents. They can be under a considerable amount of pressure from their children and want them to fit in with their friends, or to ‘learn’ to drink, but parents have a duty of care they must somehow put in the equation.”

Dr MacAvoy says another big issue is the strong influence of price on young people’s drinking habits. “We know young people are highly price sensitive. There are some cheap drinks out there with high alcohol content. Reflecting alcohol content in taxes on liquor could help steer young people towards drinks with less alcohol.”

He also believes there needs to be better enforcement of the Sale of Liquor Act. “Retailers in particular need to check young people’s identification. Some 16 percent of 14-17 year olds are purchasing alcohol themselves – that’s a lot of licensees breaking the law."

Dr MacAvoy says ALAC is particularly concerned about the trend for young people to drink heavily, or “binge” drink, with one third of those surveyed saying they drank five or more glasses of alcohol last time they drank. The report shows that a high proportion of 14 – 17 year olds are drinking regularly. Most of this age group (82%) claimed they were current drinkers with 29% claiming they drank at least once every week.

The proportion of ‘heavier drinkers’ has not increased significantly (33% in 2002, 31% in 2001, and 35% in 2000). However, nor has the proportion of ‘lighter drinkers’ or ‘non-drinkers’ increased significantly (47% ‘lighter drinkers’ and 20% ‘non-drinkers’ in 2002, compared to 44% and 25% respectively in 2001, and 49% and 16% respectively in 2000).

Figures in the survey also include a reported 45% percent of young people aged 14-17 saying their parents/caregivers were a source of their alcohol as compared with 50% in 2001 and 57% in 2000.

The research was undertaken by BRC Marketing and Social research.


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