Smokes, drinks just part of life at age 12
CHILDREN as young as 12 are regularly drinking alcohol while cannabis abuse is rife among older teenagers, a report has found.
A Federal Government drug report released yesterday has estimated more than 205,000 youths, aged 12 to 17, smoked - with a quarter buying cigarettes illegally from shops.
The National Drug Strategy survey, taken in 2002, found the number of youths, 12 to 17, who drank alcohol remained steady compared with a 1999 survey.
The latest survey, however, revealed a slight drop in the number of students using illicit drugs and smoking cigarettes.
Drug and Alcohol Services Council figures supplied to The Advertiser revealed almost 500 South Australians, aged under 19, sought treatment for a drug problems last financial year.
The report found 19 per cent of 12-year-olds were regular drinkers, consuming more than three beers, wines or spirits a week.
That rose to nine drinks a week for 17-year-olds, 50 per cent of whom claimed to be regular drinkers. About 20 per cent of 16-17 years olds drank amounts that exceeded health guidelines of up to seven drinks a day.
Releasing the report, parliamentary Health Secretary Christopher Pyne urged parents to take greater responsibility for their children's drinking. Parents supplied alcohol to 40 per cent of youths, the report revealed. "Use of alcohol by school students is still at high levels, too high for the Commonwealth's liking," Mr Pyne said.
Pre-mixed spirits were the most popular alcoholic drinks for girls, with 46 per cent of 12-17 year olds saying they had drunk the "alcopops". Beer was the drink of choice for boys. The report found 39 per cent of youths, aged 16-17, had tried cannabis in their lifetime - while 10 per cent had used it in the past week. By the age of 17, nearly 11 per cent of students had experimented with amphetamines while only 5 per cent of students had used ecstasy.
The report revealed 40 per cent of 12 to 15 year olds had smoked in 2002, down from 47 per cent in 1999.
State Health Minister Lea Stevens said alcohol advertising which suggested drinking was cool was under the microscope of the Ministerial Council on Drugs. "Unless the industry works with government to alter advertising then governments may be forced to act," she said.
Australian Divisions of General Practice chair Dr Rob Walters said the patterns of drinking had serious consequences. "Motor vehicle accidents, physical violence, unwanted sexual attention," Dr Walters said.