Fewer kids boozing: Report

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The number of underage teens drinking alcohol has dropped significantly, a new report shows.

The Ministry of Health report revealed the rate of women indulging in "hazardous" drinking in 2011/12 was almost unchanged at 12 per cent, compared to 13 per cent in 2006/07, while men's rates had dropped from 30 per cent to 26 per cent.

Among 15- to 17-year-olds, 59 per cent had consumed alcohol in the past year, compared to 75 per cent five years earlier.

About 44 per cent of men and 26 per cent of women aged 18-24 years had hazardous drinking patterns, however, the total rate of such drinking in this age group had decreased significantly in five years, from 49 per cent to 36 per cent.

Athenree teenager Cassandra Hindmarsh said binge drinking was a big problem among women her age.

"I see it all the time at clubs and parties, it's nothing unusual. They get really quite out of hand from drinking too much; you see them getting taken into a cop car, and the girls are being real loudmouths," Miss Hindmarsh said.

Because drinks in bars were so expensive, young people got drunk beforehand.

Otumoetai College principal Dave Randell said from the comments he had heard from young people, their drinking habits didn't appear to have changed considerably.

"It sometimes makes me concerned to hear what happens on holidays and weekends.

"As a general rule, people begin drinking two years before the drinking age and that does concern me. I think New Zealand as a whole needs to work on the binge-drinking culture," he said.

Ten years ago, Mr Randell said it was mostly young men drinking, but now young women were doing so and as they had a smaller body mass it was a concern.

"Some of our young ladies will feel the effects of drinking a lot more than our husky young men.

"The girls tend to drink the stronger vodka-type drinks while the boys drink more beer."

Get Smart Drug and Alcohol Services Tauranga manager Stuart Caldwell said any reduction in the consumption of alcohol was good news, especially in the under-25 age group: "This age group has featured far too predominantly in alcohol related harm statistics in recent years. Get Smart is a youth agency and 80 per cent of the clients our clinicians see are male."

While Mr Caldwell couldn't say if there had been a change in Tauranga's drinking culture, he said there was consistent demand for alcohol counselling, with about 800 clients' appointments a year. He said there hadn't been any decrease in counselling statistics.

The director of Tauranga's Hanmer Clinic, David Benton, said the decreases were a positive thing.

"Anything that reduces alcohol abuse improves the health of people and overall stability of society, so hopefully it is true," Mr Benton said.

He expected younger people to drink more as they were at an experimental age, but it was also the age where addictions came to the fore.

Mr Benton said as publicity around alcohol harm increased, people looked at themselves and perhaps started moderating their behaviour: "Maybe that ongoing publicity around alcohol is starting to have an effect, like smoking. I hope so."


 

- Bay of Plenty Times

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