Calls for a change in alcohol culture and promotion

According to a new report from the University of Wollongong in New South Wales, 90% of 12 to 17-year-olds in the state have used alcohol; the report also reveals that the level of risky drinking by adults has decreased from 50% to 30% in men and 37 to 27% in women.

The state's Health Minister John Della Bosca says a new report shows an increasing number of teenagers are drinking alcohol and drinking by young people is putting the state's health system under pressure.

Della Bosca says since the year 2000 there has been a 130% increase in alcohol-related emergency department presentations for people aged 18-24 years which has placed more pressure on doctors and nurses and underlines the seriousness of the problem.

Mr Della Bosca blames a change in the culture of drinking for the increase and says changes in the operating hours of hotels and young people's venues and also a change in the culture around alcohol and its presentation is needed.

In NSW alcohol is estimated to cause 1,220 deaths and 47,000 hospitalisations a year and alcohol abuse in terms of policing and health care costs the state around $15 billion.

Della Bosca has called for a public debate about drinking and for restrictions on alcohol advertising and says it is time for a cultural shift on alcohol.

Many experts believe restricting the advertising of alcohol can reduce alcohol consumption and other countries have already done this.

Mr Della Bosca says it is the next generation of drinkers - older children and teenagers, who are being influenced by the sophisticated promotion and advertising of alcohol and the distorted messages about success, popularity, sophistication and attractiveness.

Research has revealed that advertising leads to higher alcohol consumption and that restrictions would be likely to reduce harm and such restrictions appear to have the general support of the community.

Any move to restrict the advertising of alcohol would also have the support of the Royal Australian College of Surgeons who say restricting alcohol advertising is in the interest of the Australian community.

Despite the Federal Government's extra taxes the demand for alcopops has been unaffected and ready-to-drink beverages remain popular and affordable for young people.

Mr Della Bosca has rejected suggestions the Government is creating a moral panic for political purposes and says alcohol abuse is a genuine issue and can lead to chronic disease.

Mr Della Bosca says an interactive website to raise awareness among young people and their parents about the risks of binge drinking, has been launched by the Government.

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