Drink Tank

Going to extremes?

The Western Australian Commissioner for Children and Young People, Michelle Scott wants the state to increase alcohol prices and prosecute people who supply alcohol to minors. This is to try to combat the increasing alcohol abuse by minors.

At the same time, the WA Police Commissioner Karl O’Callaghan is asking for new laws to deal with out-of-hand parties that have become common on weekends, when kids brawl on streets, damage properties and fight with each other and police. On a recent weekend Perth police were stretched to the limit with five out-of-control parties in one night.

A recent survey conducted by Michelle Scott found that that 91percent of kids between 14-17 drink alcohol, 29 percent of those have more than five drinks in one session. That of course is highly disturbing. No wonder they run riot.

The survey also found that young people find alcohol cheap and easy to buy, so how does that relate to bottle shops selling alcohol to minors, or adults buying it for them?

The youths surveyed said the call to increase prices for alcohol would be balanced by high disposable income, taking alcohol from home, and discounted liquor.

The survey also reported the general sentiment that if alcohol became too expensive children would start taking other drugs.

I myself, know one 17 year old who threatened her mother with just that kind of action; ‘if you don’t allow me to drink I might start taking pills’. The other interesting observation was that the girl admitted that she didn’t even like the taste of wine. She drank it because everyone else did, and because it made her tipsy, free and happy, but she hated the hangovers afterwards.

Many parents are reluctant to ban their under age children from drinking, because of the enormous peer pressure the children get from others. That explains (but doesn’t excuse) the father I saw buying his 16 year old daughter a half bottle of vodka to take to a party. He argues  that he would at least know what she drank and that she might not mix her drinks if she brought her own. That is only wishful thinking of course.

Alcohol, like all drugs, has a sense of mystery for young people, the forbidden attracts, as smoking still does to a lesser extent.

Perhaps parents should introduce what a friend of mine once did with his two sons when they wanted to start smoking.

He told them they could start in his presence but each of them had to smoke a whole packet during a Saturday afternoon. They did, became pretty sick, and never smoked again. It might work with alcohol as well.

Roel Loopers

Roel Loopers

Roel is a professional photographer based in Fremantle, WA. He is passionate about life and people and is Freo’s most prolific blogger.

7 comments

  • Pretty sure it would not work to fill kids with whole bottles of alcohol in their parents’ presence – getting sick doesn’t seem to be a deterrent. Both my 16 yo step-kids are exploring alcohol. They’ve been drunk, been hungover and been sick but they still plan to drink again. I am not sure if it’s better to know and not condone it (as I do) or better to believe it’s not going on (as their mother does). But I also know that it’s nothing new.

  • I’m not sure about the approach of giving your child lots of alcohol to deter them from taking it on in the longer term. This is mainly because the pressure will still be there to from peers to drink. This pressure largely does not exist for tobacco anymore because so few people smoke than those who drink (less than 20% versus 80%).

  • There is no doubt that parents have an important role regarding alcohol and their children. But parents need support in this role – support in the face of peer pressure not just among young people, but among other parents. Secondary supply laws provide parents with a legal reason not to supply alcohol to underage young people – it sends a strong signal that it’s not appropriate to provide alcohol to kids. Queensland, NSW, Tasmania and Victoria already have secondary supply laws. A recent survey of 1600 West Australians showed that 9 out of 10 support secondary supply legislation. WA needs to catch up.

  • These secondary supply laws that exist in some states, I question how well they are enforced and if they are effective at all. I imagine it would be quite difficult to enforce such legislation with secondary supply often occurring in the home. It would be interesting to see if parents/guardians who have underage drinkers are aware of these laws and the possible penalties the parent/guardians could receive if they are caught?

    This unfortunately is a very hard and tricky issue, as I am sure the teenagers will always be able to find another source for their booze.

  • Lauren raises a good point – secondary supply laws must be accompanied by a comprehensive public education campaign. Victoria was the latest state to introduce these laws and there they were accompanied by a public education campaign to educate parents, young people and the wider community about the new laws and the reasons behind them.

  • Young people don’t get drawn into this country’s booze culture for no reason. They get there because of a permissive alcohol culture, the ease of access to young people-friendly alcohol products and because of an alcohol industry that refuses to accept that it has had a big part of the problem.

  • A straightforward, easy to understand starting point for any discussion of alcohol, is a simple listing of its characteristics. Alcohol is toxic to every organ of your body, is carcinogenic, teratogenic (maims unborn babies), and is heavily addictive.
    You’ll never see a paragraph like that in any taxpayer or industry funded blog or foundation.
    You’ll never see straightforward advice given to students such as “Alcohol causes cancer” or “Alcohol is heavily addictive” or “Alcohol maims approxiamately 1 in every 100 new born babies – more for indigenous families” or “Alcohol is involved in 70% of Australia’s assaults and 70% of all Australian crime”.

    Taking this reality check, then this quote should be of extreme concern to any effective Government, interested in the welfare of their societies children: “A recent survey conducted by Michelle Scott found that that 91percent of kids between 14-17 drink alcohol, 29 percent of those have more than five drinks in one session.”

    Given that the human brain can be permanently damaged by alcohol abuse until the age of 23, your writers statement: “That of course is highly disturbing.”

    Given that some 50% of pregnancies are unplanned, and alcohol plays a major role in unplanned pregnancies, the teratogenic realities of alcohol intake by the young, ought to be the PRIMARY MOTIVATING FACTOR of any policy treatment in this area.

    Simply put: Big Liquor Maims Babies. You cannot get a lower act than that. Going about on an industrial scale maiming babies is perhaps the lowest act possible by any corporate entity.

    Such messages are instantly transferable via a redefinition of RSA to include Audio Visual Equipped BAC Testing Machines, to be made available in all liquor outlets.

    These would permit Alcohol Users to know, as much as possible, exactly how effected they are, in terms of BAC levels, by alcohol.

    A government that sets a maximum BAC level for any alcohol user in public would give an immediately understandable limit on where “responsible drinking” ends.

    This is not a nanny state. It is Big Liquor’s State. How do I know? Well: “91percent of kids between 14-17 drink alcohol”.

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