Regular exposure and experimentation with alcohol under the age of 17 will not promote responsible drinking later in life, according to research.
In fact, adolescents who drink weekly are two to three times more likely to struggle with alcoholism later on, according to research published in international journal Addiction.
The study of 9000 Australian and New Zealanders led by UNSW researchers found a causal relationship between teen drinking and adult alcohol issues.
It found frequency of drinking under 17 was just as likely as binge drinking to lead to later issues with alcohol.
Co-author Professor George Patton from the Murdoch Children's institute said the study debunked the myth teen experimentation with alcohol promoted responsible drinking.
"Instead, it sets a young person up for later-life problem drinking," Prof Patton said in a statement.
Lead author Dr Edmund Silins said public health messages to teens needed to focus as much on frequency of drinking as the amount consumed.
The study found no link between adolescent drinking and sexual risk taking, early parenthood or mental health problems.