The government should draw up rules to limit the accessibility of alcohol to juveniles and ban some advertising to keep them away from risks caused by liquor, a political adviser has proposed.
"There are no practical measures in China to keep people under age away from alcohol and it has caused some problems," said Chen Le, founder of Joyce Entertainment Co and a political adviser in Shanghai.
A survey by China's disease prevention and control center found 52.5 percent of middle and high school students had consumed alcohol and 15 percent even said they had been drunk. The places where they drank included home, restaurants and karaoke venues and they regarded drinking alcohol as a social activity, with peers who did not drink seen as unsociable.
"It also found the tendency that the drinkers were getting younger as 25 percent of interviewees said they had their first drink before 10 years old," Chen said.
More than half of the students didn't know that the risks of becoming addicted to alcohol were higher if they started drinking at a young age, she said.
"Some people think that only low-end liquors harm health while high-end beverages do not," Chen said. "Some even think drink beer to quench thirst like water. Few know the risks of long-term heavy drinking."
There are no laws in China stating the legal age for drinking alcohol but there are rules that prevent stores selling liquor and cigarettes to juveniles.
"We can learn experiences from other countries, such as America, where individuals under 21 years old are banned from buying or having alcoholic beverages in public," Chen said.
Some advertisements, TV series and entertainment programs had too much content about alcohol, Chen added, which gave juveniles the illusion that drinking liquor was fashionable and a symbol of maturity, wisdom, charm and individuality.
She suggested the Shanghai government take the lead in formulating regulations on a minimum age for drinking legally to make it more difficult for youngsters to obtain alcohol.
She also said there should be more promotion of the risks associated with alcohol in schools, communities and supermarkets and special campaigns to punish stores which sell alcohol to juveniles.
"The government could ask wholesalers and retailers to put up signs with the ban on selling alcoholic beverages to juveniles and require consumers to show their identity certificates to prove they are eligible to buy the products," said Chen.
"As online shopping is very popular now, the government should also work out measures to prevent juveniles from buying alcohol from e-shops," she added.
She also said the advertising administration authorities had to review content related to alcohol and ban those that could attract young people.
"Alcohol advertisements should bear the sign saying that 'juveniles should not drink' so as to alert children and their parents," said Chen.
She also suggested the government to set up a hotline for the public to report violations, such as stores and bars that sell liquor to juveniles.