Almost all of a group of young women who had become regular drinkers had their first drink when they were underage, a survey found.
The survey, conducted by frontline social workers from October last year to January, involved 321 girls and women aged 12 to 24 who had drunk alcohol at least once a week for at least two months at some point prior to questioning.
Ninety-seven per cent of those surveyed said they had their first alcoholic drink before they turned 18. The median age at which they did so was 12.
The respondents were the recipients of services provided by organisations under the umbrella of The Hong Kong Council of Social Service.
Almost one-third of the survey respondents had worked at a bar, and of those 78 per cent started their first bar job before they turned 18 - the legal drinking age - and 22.5 per cent did so before they turned 15 - the legal working age. The work included waiting on or playing drinking games with clients, and promoting events as "party managers".
The survey showed that a higher proportion of the girls witnessed or experienced sexual assault when they were in a bar working compared with when they were there for leisure.