Hong Kong's love of red wine has led to a young generation who go binge drinking, which is potentially fatal, health authorities warn.
The attraction of quaffing red wine and low-alcohol drinks has been such among the young that the Department of Health and experts are calling for duties to be resumed, and for promotion of wines and spirits to be regulated.
Young adults had been asked in the department's Behavioral Risk Factor Survey in April 2012 if they had engaged in binge drinking - consuming at least five cans or glasses of alcohol beverage on one occasion - during the 30 days prior to the survey.
"Binge drinking among young adults aged from 18 to 24 increased from 7.4 percent in 2010, to 9.8 percent in 2012, and this is certainly a cause for concern," community medicine consultant Regina Ching Cheuk-tuen said yesterday.
The survey also found 23.4 percent of children aged 10 years or below, and half of Secondary One and Two said they had drunk alcohol.
Ching, of the health department's Centre for Health Protection, said the estimated per capita alcohol consumption among the local population had grown from 2.6 liters of pure alcohol in 2009 to 2.87 liters in 2012, with a steady rise noted since the February 2008 exemption of duties for wine and liquor with alcohol content of not more than 30 percent.
The World Health Organization's global status report on alcohol and health 2014 revealed that the number of deaths worldwide due to alcohol-related harm had jumped from 2.5 million in 2011 to 3.3 million in 2012.
Among the 20 to 39 age group, about 25 percent of total deaths are alcohol- attributable.
"Parents of younger generations link drinking red wine with people of higher social status, particularly those who have studied abroad," said Hong Kong Paediatric Society president Daniel Chiu Cheung-shing.
"Some of these parents even ask their children to start drinking a few months before they go overseas, believing they will have lower chance of getting drunk.
"Young people are at particular risk of immediate, short- and long-term alcohol-related harm, which affects their physical, intellectual, social and mental development."
University of Hong Kong emeritus professor Raymond Liang Hin-suen said higher doses of alcohol are associated with increased mortality from coronary heart disease.