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More than half teenagers drink before adulthood

By Wang Hongyi (China Daily)

16:55, June 08, 2012

BEIJING, June 8 (Xinhuanet) -- More than half of young people in China start drinking before they reach adulthood, despite agreeing that they should wait to become an adult before they do so, a survey has found.

The report, conducted by drinks giant Pernod Ricard China and Horizon Research Consultancy Group, looked at drinking behavior among the young in China, and was aimed at helping to promote the message of responsible drinking.

It polled 1,258 people aged 18 to 30, mainly university students and office workers from the cities of Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Wuhan, Chengdu and Xiamen.

Though 78.9 percent of those polled agreed people should take up drinking only after becoming an adult, just over half actually started drinking when they were under 18.

"Young people do not think that underage drinking is improper, and think minors can drink in certain cases, such as when they are accompanied by parents, or just drink a little," said Shen Min, one of the researchers, adding that she thought young people do not recognize the dangers of underage drinking adequately.

The survey suggested that Chinese young people understand that responsible drinking means not drinking excessively, not driving after drinking, and not drinking if pregnant.

However, only 47.3 percent said responsible drinking should include "minors should not drink".

Nearly 42 percent said they had experienced drinking excessively and 71.7 percent have seen their friends drunk. But less than 10 percent of them know the exact meaning of excessive drinking.

According to regulations and laws in China, retailers are not allowed to sell alcohol to minors.

However, experts said that judging by these latest survey results, the rules appear to have failed to keep teenagers away.

Last year, another report released by Shanghai Institutes For Biological Sciences under the Chinese Academy of Sciences showed that more than half of its surveyed middle school students (53.8 percent) have experience of drinking. And nearly a quarter of polled students said they drank alcohol within 30 days prior to the survey conducted.

"Children often have a drink at family gatherings, and parents would not worry too much if their children drink just a little," said Zhao Bing, 24.

"I remember that I began to drink when I was very young. My parents know that it's not good for children, but these are just words, they didn't give me too much interference.

"Actually, many friends of mine shared a similar experience when drinking at a young age," he added.

"I didn't drink in front of my parents, but I drink when I was with my friends," said a high school student who was reluctant to be named.

"Some of my classmates can drink a lot, but I have little capacity for liquor. Sometimes I felt a loss of face if I didn't drink," he said.

High school teacher Ma Jing said she is worried by the lack of responsibility shown by retailers, in particular.

"Despite the regulations, we often see some retailers sell alcohol to teenagers. It's a business decision for them, and I don't think they know what harm they might be doing to the younger generation.

"Stricter legal supervision is needed in China to protect teenagers from alcohol."

Yuan Yue, chairman of Horizon Research Consultancy Group, added: "In western countries, retailers at liquor stores won't sell any alcohol to someone who looks underage. And they will require proof of age from the buyer.

"Young people have little knowledge about alcohol, and in this regard, long-term publicity and education should be given to prevent minors from alcohol consumption and abuse."

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