Hong Kong needs tighter controls on underage drinking

By Ben Pang

With Valentine’s Day coming up, some young people use it as an excuse to drink

By Ben Pang |

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Lan Kwai Fong is a popular place for underage drinkers.

Valentine’s Day is not an excuse for you to drink, the supervisor of a youth centre said. There should be tighter controls to stop young people from being able to buy alcohol, said the supervisor of the Youth Crime Prevention Centre (YCPC) Chan Man-ho on Friday. He told Young Post that many young people used holidays like Valentine’s Day to let loose.

The YCPC from the Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups interviewed 242 people between the ages of 11 and 26 from September to January.They found that 62 per cent of them had tried alcohol under the age of 17. Some 24 per cent said they drink alcohol every week.

The survey found that about 58 per cent of people bought alcohol at convenience stores and supermarkets. Some 30 per cent said they got their alcoholic drinks from their friends. And 24 per cent drank alcohol at places like bars.

Peer influence was a key factor in drinking. About 47 per cent of the respondents said their friends invited them to drink. Other factors included festivities (44 per cent) and stress relief (36 per cent).

But the survey revealed the dark side of drinking: about 18 per cent of respondents admitted they had vandalised after drinking. Another 18 per cent said they had been fighting.

“Young people should not underestimate the risks of drinking. There are a lot of health risks. They could end up in dangerous situations after drinking. They should understand that alcohol won’t take away stress, keep them warm or help them sleep,” warned Chan.

Chan called for stricter controls on the sale of alcohol. He said shops should not be banned from selling alcohol to people under the age of 18. He added that warning labels should be put on the packages.

Dr Angus Chan Ming-wai, president of the College of Family Medicine, worried that if people started drinking from a young age, they were more likely to become alcoholics.

“It’s not easy to quit drinking if youngsters have developed a drinking habit,” he said.

Drinking could affect a young person’s brain development, Dr Chan insisted. “Drinking can have a harmful effect on health, especially the brain and nervous system. It could affect their learning and reasoning abilities.”