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Supporting measures to curb underage drinking

Alarmed by recent reports as to underage drinking, the government is considering legislation to increase the legal drinking limit from 18 to 21 years; however, according to the Industry Association for Responsible Alcohol Use (ARA), this will not have an impact on the 14 and 15-year-olds who are currently drinking. What is required is parental and societal guidance on the dangers of early drinking.
Supporting measures to curb underage drinkingParents play a crucial role in mitigating some of the need to conform to peer group pressure and need to speak to teenagers about the consequences of their actions. Alcohol abuse can negatively affect their lives if they are not equipped with the necessary information to make the right decisions. The comprehensive dangers of underage drinking are varied and can have lasting effects on both mental and physical development. Teens also tend to binge drink, which can lead to risky sexual behaviour, sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies.

"Active parental involvement"

Adrian Botha, spokesperson for ARA, says, "Education and communication starts at home with active parental involvement and this, along with the enforcement of the current age limit, will address the problem.

"The issue of underage drinking is of great concern to us and the ARA has funded the production of the Teenagers & Alcohol booklet as a practical guide aimed at encouraging parents to communicate with their children from an early age about the harmful effects of alcohol."

The booklet is distributed to schools in Johannesburg and the Western Cape to reinforce the message of the harmful consequences of underage drinking and to assist parents in finding a platform to communicate openly and honestly with their teens on alcohol use.

Equipping teenagers

The association has partnerships with the organisations that educate teenagers about the dangers of underage drinking including Lifetalk, through its Speak Up initiative, now in its second year, which is run in schools in Gauteng. Speak Up equips teenagers with the tools of assertion, enabling them to 'speak up' against peer pressure and encourage fellow teenagers to do the same. The programme is aimed at learners, parents and teachers.

"As parents it is never too late to start having conversations with your teenagers about alcohol and the harmful effect it has on young children. Don't be afraid to consult professionals if you are faced with this situation. You can also phone school counsellors to get the details of suitably qualified professionals who have experience working with adolescent alcohol issues," concludes Botha.

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