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LCQ8: Reduce alcohol-related harm

     Following is a question by the Hon Lau Wong-fat and a written reply by the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr Ko Wing-man, in the Legislative Council today (October 9):


     According to press reports, the results of a study conducted by the Chinese University of Hong Kong indicated that the percentage of people who ever drank in the population increased from 65% in 2006 to 85% in 2012.  Among them, 10% consumed alcoholic beverages for the first time after the Government abolished in 2008 the duties on wine and on liquor with an alcoholic strength of not more than 30% (alcohol duties).  The scholars who conducted the study suggested examination by the Government of the reinstatement/increase of the alcohol duties.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a)  whether it has contacted the scholars who conducted the aforesaid study to examine the results of the study and the recommendations concerned;

(b)  whether it has studied if there has been an obvious upward trend in the number of alcoholics in Hong Kong since the abolition of the alcohol duties; and

(c)  whether it has considered providing additional resources to enhance the assistance and treatment for alcoholics, as well as to step up the publicity targeted at young people regarding the health hazards of alcohol abuse?



     The World Health Organization has pointed out that alcohol consumption is associated with major non-communicable diseases such as cancers, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.  It has also reaffirmed that measures should be strengthened to reduce alcohol-related harm in the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases.  

     The Department of Health (DH) published a strategy document entitled "Promoting Health in Hong Kong: A Strategic Framework for Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases" in 2008 to set out the strategic directions for the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases.  To implement the strategies, the Steering Committee on Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases (the Steering Committee) was set up in the same year.  Chaired by the Secretary for Food and Health, the Steering Committee comprises members from various sectors and is responsible for steering the work on the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases and overseeing the work progress.  

     Reducing alcohol-related harm is an important priority action area in the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases.  In this regard, the Steering Committee set up the Working Group on Alcohol and Health (the Working Group) in June 2009.  Having considered scientific evidence and assessing local circumstances, the Working Group launched the "Action Plan to Reduce Alcohol-related Harm in Hong Kong" (the Action Plan) in October 2011.  The Action Plan covers 5 priority areas, 10 recommendations and 17 specific action items, and gives an account of the collaborative efforts by different sectors in preventing and controlling alcohol-related harm.  In drafting the Action Plan, the Working Group, in the light of the unique local circumstances, discussed and considered whether overseas intervention measures and experiences in reducing the harmful effects of alcohol could be introduced.

     My reply to the three parts of the question is as follows:

(a)  The Government has kept itself abreast of the latest research findings, both local and overseas, on alcohol and health.  A scholar taking part in the Chinese University of Hong Kong's study in question is also a member of the Steering Committee and the Working Group.

     DH will continue to collaborate with the relevant sectors and organisations to implement the various recommendations in the Action Plan and launch comprehensive measures to reduce alcohol-related harm.  The Working Group will also closely monitor and assess the impact of alcohol on public health, as well as relay views and give advice to the Steering Committee on effective control measures in a timely manner.

(b)  Since 2005, DH has been collecting information on various health risks and related behaviour of Hong Kong adults aged between 18 and 64 through the Behavioural Risk Factor Surveillance System.  Data on alcohol consumption include "the percentage of respondents who had ever drunk at least one alcoholic drink prior to the survey" and "the percentage of respondents who had drunk at least one alcoholic drink during the thirty days prior to the survey".  The latter can better reflect the recent alcohol consumption of the public and the data are set out in the following table.

Year        2005   2006   2007   2008
Total (%)   30.9   29.7   37.5   34.9

Year        2009   2010   2011   2012
Total (%)   36.3   34.9   31.7   30.9

     As shown in the table, the percentage of respondents who had drunk at least one alcoholic drink during the last thirty days prior to the survey stood between 29.7% and 37.5% for the several years before and after 2008, indicating no significant trend of increase or decline.

     DH will continue to conduct surveillance of alcohol consumption and monitor the profile of drinkers so as to make timely and accurate assessments.

(c)  The Government has always been concerned about the subject of alcohol and health, including the problem of alcoholism among youths.  

     Psychiatric specialist out-patient clinics and substance abuse clinics in all clusters under the Hospital Authority provide alcohol abusers with appropriate multi-disciplinary assessment (including psychiatry, clinical psychology, nursing and occupational therapy) and treatment services (including in-patient, out-patient, community support, guidance and rehabilitation).  The Hospital Authority will continue to provide quality services through the effective use of resources.

     DH also educates the public and publicises alcohol-related harm through a range of media, including health education materials, 24-hour education hotlines, websites and electronic publications.

     The Student Health Service of DH has been providing health education for all participating primary three students through the "Junior Health Pioneer" Workshop since October 2007 to help them understand the adverse effects of drinking, smoking and drug abuse, develop a correct attitude at an early age and learn the relevant refusal skills.  

     Since the 2008-09 academic year, the Adolescent Health Programme under the Student Health Service has reinforced secondary students' awareness about the harmful effects of drinking, smoking and drug abuse, as well as enhanced their refusal skills to resist temptation through the core programmes under Basic Life Skills Training for secondary one students and Topical Programmes for secondary one to six students.

Ends/Wednesday, October 9, 2013
Issued at HKT 16:17


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