DH launches "Young and Alcohol Free" campaign against underage drinking (with photos)
At a press conference today to launch the campaign, the Head of the Surveillance and Epidemiology Branch of the Centre for Health Protection of the DH, Dr Regina Ching, said, "Survey findings reveal that drinking is occurring more frequently and beginning at younger ages locally. Those who had the first sip when they were young are more likely to have heavier drinking as well as alcohol dependence and abuse in later life.
"As the brain of adolescents is developing and they are more vulnerable to the physical, social and mental harms of alcohol, every sector and especially parents should make all-out efforts to protect young people from drinking."
In the Knowledge, Attitudes and Practices Study Pertaining to Alcohol Consumption among Adults in Hong Kong 2015 commissioned by the DH involving over 2 500 local adults aged 18 to 64, of the 1 630 who had ever drunk alcohol, 43.1 per cent reported to have had their first sip of alcohol under 18 years old. In addition, 16.6 per cent of 1 087 respondents who drank alcohol in the past 12 months said that they had developed a drinking habit below the age of 18.
Also of note, having the first sip of alcohol before 18 was associated with a higher frequency of drinking, larger number of alcohol units usually consumed in one day and higher frequency of binge drinking (defined as five or more glasses/cans on one occasion) in adulthood. The DH's data showed that 64.8 per cent of those who drank more than three times a week and 66.7 per cent of those who binge-drank once or more a month reported having their first sip of alcohol before 18.
"Our data also show a worrying rise in the proportion of students with binge drinking experience increasing with age. Among students who attended our Student Health Service Centres and completed a self-administered questionnaire in the school year 2015/16, as of March 2016, the percentage of students who had ever binge-drunk and those who binge-drank at least once a month were respectively 3.4 and 1.2 per cent in Primary Four and 12.1 and 2.0 per cent in Secondary Six students," Dr Ching said.
Dr Ching reminded young people and their parents that alcoholic beverages are classified as a Group 1 carcinogen (cancer-causing to humans) by the International Agency for Research on Cancer of the World Health Organization, the same grouping as tobacco smoke, asbestos and ionising radiation. Alcohol particularly affects the developing brain in adolescence, including impairing the memory and affecting the development of the nervous system as well as reducing self-control ability.
Also speaking at the press conference, the Associate Professor of the School of Public Health of the University of Hong Kong (HKU), Dr Daniel Ho, said that parents are children's main source of alcohol. Common pro-drinking practices encouraged their children to drink and parents often underestimate the severity of underage drinking, he added.
An HKU study commissioned by the DH revealed that primary and secondary school students residing with parents, siblings and grandparents who were drinkers were more likely to develop drinking habits than those whose families did not. Moreover, children, especially primary school pupils, exposed to pro-drinking practices such as buying alcohol, pouring alcohol and opening bottles for parents were more likely to start underage drinking.
The Consultant Psychiatrist of the Tuen Mun Alcohol and Drug Dependence Unit and Chief of Service of the General Adult Psychiatry Department of Castle Peak Hospital (CPH), Dr Lam Ming, shared his clinical observations and experience from the alcohol treatment service of Tuen Mun Alcohol Problems Clinic at CPH. He said that early use of alcohol was linked to binge drinking and alcohol-related problems in adolescence and adulthood.
The DH today rolled out a new Announcement in the Public Interest (API) with the theme "Protect Young People from Harm, Say No to Alcohol". Since the beginning of the current school year, the DH has enhanced publicity and activities against alcohol use, including the recent "Young and Alcohol Free" workshop jointly held with the Federations of Parent-Teacher Associations and the HKU, as well as the "Uncover Alcohol Harms" health talk upon invitation from the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
"We will continue to work closely with the sectors concerned and school partners to organise seminars and deliver health education materials to youths, parents and schools for the realisation of a young and alcohol-free Hong Kong," Dr Ching said.
The public may visit the DH Young and Alcohol Free thematic website for more information.
Ends/Thursday, December 15, 2016
Issued at HKT 16:30
Issued at HKT 16:30