Alarm raised as boys go on beer-buying binge

Top News | Sophie Hui 21 Apr 2017

A pair of six-year-old twin brothers were sold beer in 11 of 14 shops they went to in an undercover investigation, according to a district councillor.

Aaron Huw and Jack Llewellyn Puhar went to 14 shops, including supermarkets and convenience stores, in Sha Tin last month.

But only two convenience stores and one supermarket refused to sell beer to the pair. The 11 other shops, meanwhile, did not even question the boys.

Sha Tin District Council member, Scarlett Pong Oi-lan, a pharmacist, said what happened in the 11 shops was unacceptable and stores should not sell alcoholic drinks to minors under any circumstances, even if they were just helping their parents buy the drinks.

Although bars and restaurants are banned from serving or selling alcoholic drinks to minors, retailers do not have to follow the rule.

"Retailers only regulate themselves when it comes to selling alcoholic drinks to minors but the undercover investigation showed that this self- regulation has been failing," Pong said.

Pong and the New Forum political party also conducted a telephone survey of 1,025 residents about their drinking habits and their views on regulating retailers selling alcohol to minors from the end of March to mid-April.

Almost half said they drank alcohol before they were 18 years old, up 6.8 percent from a similar survey in 2015. Nearly a quarter said they drank alcohol when they were 12 or younger.

The survey also found that many youngsters faced an alarming issue as more than 80 percent of minor respondents said they had more than five drinks on at least one day in the last month - three times more than in 2015.

"Young people influence each other greatly and many of them think having drinks with low alcohol content is not a big problem," Pong said.

"Many alcoholic drinks have colorful and eye-catching packages and some of them do not look like beer or alcohol."

Nearly 80 percent supported the government's plan to amend the law to ban retailers from selling alcohol to minors.

On Wednesday, the government proposed that all retailers - including supermarkets, convenience stores, and online shops - stop selling alcoholic drinks to those under 18 while staff can ask for IDs if they suspect the buyers are underaged.

"The government should impose progressive punishment and there should be imprisonment and huge fines to deter retailers from selling alcohol to minors," Pong said.

She also said the World Health Organization has defined alcohol use as a risk factor for many cancers. It has also said people will have a higher chance of developing a drinking problem if they started drinking at an early age.

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