SCHOOL principals and drug educators have called on the Government to ban shops from selling alcohol to minors, saying current laws send contradictory messages to Hongkong youths.
The deputy principal of South Island School, Ms Karen Moffat, said it was futile to warn minors against drinking if they could legally buy alcohol in supermarkets and stores.
''We tell the students about the dangers of excessive drinking and they say that may be so but it's perfectly legal. It weakens our position,'' she said.
While bars owners who serve liquor to minors face a maximum fine of $5,000 and six months in prison, it is legal for shops to sell alcohol to under 18-year-olds.
Ms Moffat said youths who did not have enough money for bars bought beer in supermarkets.
''Some go to the waste ground near Baguio Villa and others go behind Parkview after buying their supply in the Park 'N Shop.
''If society appears to condone this through the legal system, it is that much harder to lay down a firm line,'' Ms Moffat said.
Principal of Wellington College, Mr Chan Shui-hon, said it was illogical for youths to be refused drinks in bars, but allowed to get drunk on the streets. He called for a change in the law.
Director of the Community Drug Advisory Council, Ms Pat Kane, said the low priority placed on tightening loopholes in the laws was frustrating.
''The reasons most often given for doing nothing is that legislation does not stop underage drinking and it is difficult to enforce,'' she said.
''We agree it does not stop underage drinking, but legislation should be passed in the spirit of making a clear message to young people on the issue.'' Ms Kane noted that in the United States, the number of youths who drank regularly dropped by 18 per cent after some states raised the minimum age to 21.
She urged the Government to back a change in drinking laws with a preventive strategy of drug and alcohol education.