Teen drink warning for parents

EXCLUSIVE Cathy O'Leary Medical Editor
Trouble: Leavers booze warning. Picture: Nic Ellis/The West Australian

Permissive parents are being targeted in the lead-up to school leavers by a confronting advertising campaign that graphically depicts the dangers of allowing teenagers to drink alcohol.

The State Government campaign being launched today uses real frontline health workers, a taxi driver and a school counsellor to warn of the risks of underage drinking, interspersed with images of teenagers vomiting and being treated by ambulance paramedics.

Although the advertisements are also aimed at young people, the blunt message to parents is to resist the temptation to supply under-18s with alcohol, even in seemingly harmless circumstances such as the odd drink at home or at leavers' celebrations.

It comes a few months after a Perth study of leavers found some parents helped their children smuggle in alcohol, some resorting to hiding it in car baby seats.

Research shows one in six 12 to 17-year-old WA youths drink and one-third of those drink at risky levels, averaging 6.5 drinks in a session.

Almost one-third of those who drink say their parents supply them with alcohol, 40 per cent report vomiting after drinking and 13 per cent say they have hit someone or been in a fight.

The latest phase of the Alcohol Think Again campaign is a joint project of the Drug and Alcohol Office, Curtin University and the Telethon Kids Institute.

Mental Health Minister Helen Morton said people under 18 were particularly vulnerable to harm from drinking and supplying alcohol to them increased their risk of physical, emotional and developmental harm.

Princess Margaret Hospital paediatrician Gervase Chaney, who features in the campaign and has three children aged 14 to 20, said some parents were naive about the health risks to their children from alcohol but in other cases it was lax parenting.

"This is a serious issue but some parents seem to have a more permissive attitude to alcohol than is wise and others seem to turn a blind eye or even encourage their teenagers to drink," Dr Chaney said. "Hopefully, this is a wake-up call to parents to take a harder line."

Mrs Morton said although most people were aware of some of the short-term risks of young people drinking alcohol, many were still unaware that alcohol could seriously affect brain development.

"Alcohol can also affect a young person's ability to learn, plan, remember, think critically and regulate their emotions," she said.