Education is key in helping youngsters not to abuse alcohol

PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 October, 2016, 4:54pm
UPDATED : Monday, 24 October, 2016, 10:35pm

It is encouraging to learn that the Hong Kong government is investigating how to regulate the sale of alcohol to youngsters in retail sites (“Act quickly to end the scourge of underage drinking”, October 9).

The control of alcohol, among other substances or drugs, has remained a relatively low priority of the government despite a local upward trend of alcohol consumption. According to data published by the Department of Health, between 2004 and 2015, the alcohol consumption per capita of Hong Kong stood between 2.53 and 2.87 litres.

Not surprisingly, a surge was observed following the exemption of duty for wine and liquor of an alcoholic strength not more than 30 per cent since February 2008. Alcohol consumption per capita from 2009 to 2015 was on the rise.

Meanwhile, the department also acknowledged the increase in the number of underage teens admitted to hospital due to alcohol-related complications.

Based on the most recent figures available, in 2012, there were a total of 35 hospital discharges and deaths due to alcohol-related illness or injuries among people aged below 18 in Hong Kong. Mental and behavioural disorders due to use of alcohol accounted for 100 per cent of these cases.

Alcohol use is the single biggest risk factor for deaths among young people aged 15 to 29, according to the World Health Organisation. The effects of drinking alcohol can be especially pronounced in young people, even at low levels of consumption. Ironically, youth is also a stage when people readily pick up the habit of drinking.

On top of tightening regulations and reviewing its alcohol policy, it is essential for the government to empower individuals, in particular, young people and parents, to realise how harmful alcohol is.

Unfortunately, alcohol prevention education is yet to become a priority of parents or teachers in general, though it is proven that the most effective drug prevention education programmes should begin early and continue throughout a child’s educational career.

In delivering its sequential health awareness and drug prevention programmes, the ultimate goal of Life Education Activity Programme (LEAP) is to empower young people to resist temptations against alcohol and any drugs so that they can build a healthy and happy life.

Apart from providing students with drug knowledge and refusal skills training, LEAP also encourages students to appreciate the uniqueness and potential of each individual, and develop their skills to overcome pressures.

Heidi Lau, executive director, LEAP