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Last Updated: Monday, 29 November, 2004, 00:35 GMT
Australian teenage drinking scare
By Phil Mercer
BBC correspondent, Sydney

Gold Coast
Queensland's Gold Coast is popular with teenagers after exams
Thousands of Australian school leavers celebrating at seaside resorts around the country after their exams are being warned about excessive drinking.

A nationwide survey has revealed that more than 90% of young Australians have tried alcohol by the age of 14.

It also found that many older teenagers regularly drink to excess.

On the Gold Coast south of Brisbane, end-of-year celebrations have been marred by dozens of arrests, including many for alcohol-related offences.

Week-long parties by students celebrating the end of their exams are an Australian tradition.

Thousands have converged on Queensland's Gold Coast.

The majority are well-behaved. However, the abuse of alcohol is a major problem, especially for those who are under 18 and not legally allowed to drink.

Binge tendency

It seems the law has not been that effective. A survey conducted two years ago by Australia's Cancer Council has now revealed disturbing trends in teenage drinking.

It estimates that 20% of 16- and 17-year-olds regularly drink to excess.

Many other teenagers consume alcohol far less frequently, but when they do they tend to binge.

Doctors have warned that this can lead to heart complaints and brain damage.

It also puts young people at risk from physical and sexual abuse, as well as drink-driving.

The common view that many teenagers appear to have is that because alcohol is so widely available, it cannot be that harmful.

It is a problem not only for older students. More than a fifth of the 12-year-olds who were surveyed said they had drunk alcohol either at home, at a friend's house or at a party.

The survey did have some good news - it showed that the number of Australian teenagers smoking and using illicit drugs had fallen significantly in recent years.


SEE ALSO:
Women 'better at holding drink'
11 Oct 04 |  Health


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