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Expert warns teens and alcohol don’t mix

Tasmanian parents are being warned against allowing their children to drink alcohol.

The warning follows a national health insurers’ survey of 1200 adults earlier this year.

More than half the Tasmanians interviewed thought it was acceptable for 15 to 17-year-olds to drink at home supervised by their parents.

The Director of the Brain and Mind Institute in Sydney, Ian Hickie, says parents are misguided in thinking that allowing young people to drink a little at home will help moderate their behaviour with their peers.

“The evidence seems to be in the opposite direction,” he said.

“The younger you start drinking at home, the more likely you are to run into trouble, particularly outside the home, so the two worlds are not really connected.

“What your young people are doing under your supervision won’t help outside the home and probably, in reality, it’s encouraging the idea that alcohol is ok. I mean, your parents give it to you, what could be so wrong about it?”

“The key issue here is the brain is continuing to grow and develop during the late teenage and early adult years and particularly the front part of the brain, that has the most to do with being an adult – making decisions, planning for the future, inhibiting impulsive behaviours – is undergoing very active change.

“Alcohol is toxic to nerve cells, kills off nerve cell connections, and excessive exposure to alcohol during those years therefore might do lasting damage to teenage brains.”

Income link

The study also found people’s acceptance of underage drinking was closely linked to their incomes.

Sixty three per cent of people earning more than $100,000 supported supervised drinking.

The figure for people earning less than $70, 000 was 48 per cent.

Professor Hickie says having money to purchase substances results in using more substances.

“So basically parents have got more resources, have more alcohol they share it with their kids, they just see it as another consumer product,” he said.

“It’s simply an availability at home and therefore an attitudinal issue. Now I’m sure those same parents if they thought it was harmful, wouldn’t actually be so ready to share their alcohol with their kids.”

Age increase

Professor Hickie wants the legal drinking age increased to 19.

“It would make an enormous difference to finishing school,” he said.

“For every year you go up, what you’re really doing is taking the whole population with you. When the legal drinking age was 21 kids started drinking at 18,19,20.

“Now the legal drinking age is 18 we’ve got 14, 15, 16-year-olds regularly abusing alcohol.

New Tasmanian laws introduced last month prohibit the supply of alcohol to people aged under 18 on private property without the permission of their parent or guardian.

Those who do supply alcohol to underage drinkers face fines of up to $12 000 or 12 months’ imprisonment.

source: ABC News

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