Asia: Kids risk drinking themselves to death
By Carain Yeung
October 3, 2016
Nearly 40 percent of Secondary Three students have consumed alcohol, with some aged just eight when they first tried it.
Such facts were being pointed to with alarm yesterday as the Hong Kong Academy of Nursing, the Hong Kong College of Family Physicians and the Hong Kong College of Community Medicine marked World No Alcohol Day.
It was noted that the consumption of alcohol rose after 2008 when the government exempted from tax those drinks with an alcohol content below 30 percent.
The data on young drinkers comes from a Polytechnic University study in which 840 Secondary Three students were questioned in 2014 about health- risk behavior including drinking, smoking and sex.
Thirty-eight percent had experience in drinking alcohol and 52.7 percent of them had drunk in the month prior to the survey, despite the minimum legal age for drinking being 18.
“The earliest drinking experience [on average] came at 10.9 years,” said Hong Kong Academy of Nursing president Frances Wong Kam-yuet. She also said peer influence was a key factor as teenagers with friends who drink are 32.8 times more likely to try alcohol than those with friends who do not imbibe.
Drinking is also associated with misconduct. Teenagers who drink are 4.6 percent more likely to develop behavioral problems than those who do not.
Mak Sin-ping, a former president of the Hong Kong College of Community Medicine, said tax exemptions for drinks with alcohol strength below 30 percent hit public health, as the Department of Health figures show people have been drinking more since 2008.
The alcohol consumption per capita for adults rose from 2.6 liters in 2008 to 2.83 liters in 2014. The problem of binge drinking also worsened among 18 to 24-year-olds.
Quoting World Health Organization figures, Wong said alcohol is the third- highest risk factor in the development of diseases, with 3.3 million deaths worldwide every year linked to alcohol. Alcohol is also a “first class cancer- causing substance,” says the International Cancer Organization.
Angus Chan Ming-wai, president of the Hong Kong College of Family Physicians, pointed out that drinking damages the liver, which increases hepatitis and cirrhosis risks. The three groups want health warning labels on alcohol like on tobacco.
Secretary for Food and Health Ko Wing-man said officials are studying how to make laws against selling alcohol to those under 18 more effective.