Teen drinking: Is it okay at all?

OUR teenagers are boozing younger and adults are lending a hand.

In an initiative to tackle the problem, new legislation imposes heavy fines on adults who purchase alcohol for minors without parental consent.

Within the home, parents are also increasingly asked to educate themselves on the research into underage drinking.

Drinkwise chief executive officer Trish Worth said underage teens should not be allowed to drink, even when supervised by a responsible adult in the home.

As the festive season approaches, it’s a challenging issue for parents with teenage children.

The old argument goes that it would be safer for teens to drink around someone they trust. But as more research comes to light on the effects of alcohol on young brains, experts are warning otherwise.

Ms Worth’s message to parents is to delay the first drink for as long as possible.

Ms Worth said by allowing drinking in the home, parents were normalising the practice.

“It used to be thought that it was the right thing to do,” she said.

“The experts are now saying that it’s not. The earlier a young person drinks the more likely they are to have a problem in later life.

“Not only are there immediate risks of excessive drinking to consider such as fights, injuries, drink-driving and unwanted sexual encounters, but there are also longer-term risks given that adolescents’ brains are still developing and continue to develop into their early to mid-20s.”

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s National Drug Strategy Household Survey for 2010 showed a major reduction in the proportion of parents that regularly buy alcohol for minors. 

But Drinkwise says there is still work to be done.

Underage drinking has been identified as a key issue for our city by Ballarat’s Community Safety Advisory Committee, which this month launched an awareness campaign targeting the illegal sale and supply of alcohol to minors. 

Committee chair Des Hudson said the joint project with the City of Ballarat and Victoria Police was aimed at packaged liquor outlets and parents.

Cr Hudson said there was a lack of awareness of the consequences faced by adults involved with secondary supply.

“A lot of young people are getting adults to purchase alcohol for them,” he said.

“Anyone who provides alcohol to a young person without express consent of the parent can risk a fine of up to $7000.

“This campaign is about reminding outlets of these responsibilities, as well as helping parents and guardians to clearly understand their legal obligations around supplying alcohol to minors.” 

Cr Hudson said the Australian culture was generally accepting of alcohol and the issue of young people having access to it would take a whole-of-community approach.

rachel.afflick@thecourier.com.au

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