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Health and wellness

Hong Kong’s new alcohol law must be supplemented by education to curb underage drinking

  • Young people are bombarded with multimedia images that promote alcohol consumption. Educational material must be interactive to be effective
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 11 December, 2018, 7:42am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 11 December, 2018, 7:42am

It is both encouraging and worrying to see the new law regulating the sale and supply of alcohol to minors come into effect on November 30 (“Hong Kong to ban under-18s buying alcohol in shops”, November 14). It shows that the government has finally taken a step towards curbing underage drinking but also reminds us how little has been done in the past. We, at Life Education Activity Programme (Leap), believe that more resources have to be continuously allocated to alcohol-prevention education to complement the enforcement of this law.

For many years, we have downplayed the impact of alcohol. Just as highlighted by your article “Former international school drug addicts urge more help for teens” (November 25), education on the subject was “one-off events” and “wasn’t enough to make an impact”. Indeed, most schools in Hong Kong do not educate their students systematically on alcohol and its impact on them, whereas the World Health Organisation reported alcohol use as the single-biggest risk factor for deaths among young people aged 15 to 29. Alcohol consumption is also the third-largest risk factor for ill health in developed countries after tobacco consumption and hypertension, according to the WHO.

Nowadays, young people can conveniently access alcohol-related information through various multimedia channels, which vividly associate the consumption of alcohol with fun, sex appeal, trendiness and novelty. It is tough to rely solely on textbooks or notes to impart knowledge to students on alcohol and a healthy lifestyle.

This is why Leap has adopted a uniquely systematic, child-centred and interactive approach, using augmented reality and motion-sensing devices such as Kinect, to help students learn about the body and how drugs affect it. The innovative use of technology can add to the freshness of the teaching format, motivating students’ interest.

Three ways to put teeth into Hong Kong’s new alcohol law

With nearly 25 years of expertise, Leap has provided drug prevention education, including alcohol prevention programmes, to a record over 110,000 primary and junior secondary students in the 2017-18 academic year. Nevertheless, this also implies that thousands of students fail to receive our health-based programmes, making them more susceptible to temptation.

The current resources are tiny considering the battle we are fighting and the importance of educating young people on a healthy lifestyle. The whole of society has to realise the importance of the cause and invest in and support it.

Heidi Lau, executive director, Life Education Activity Programme, Lai King