Teen drinking: should parents be allowed to supply alcohol? 

For most parents, treading the line on alcohol and their children is a difficult task. For Dapto mum Fiona Morgan, it is about weighing the risks.

Under current NSW law, parents can give alcohol to their children and authorise other adults to supply their children with alcohol. Mrs Morgan said she would not give alcohol to Adam, her 15-year-old son, but agreed with the law in principle.

"If it comes through parents and permission is being provided, you know what and how much they're drinking," she said.

"If not, kids will get alcohol elsewhere and it won't be in a controlled environment, and that's when it gets dangerous."

The NSW Legislative Committee on Social Policy is conducting an inquiry into the appropriateness of laws relating to provision of alcohol to minors, with the hot-button issue being the ability of parents to either directly supply, or allow another adult to supply, their children with alcohol.

Lance Barrie, research manager at the University of Wollongong's Centre for Health Initiatives, said the issue of "secondary supply" was one of the biggest problems around minors and alcohol.

"In NSW, there is no limit on the amount of alcohol that can be supplied," he said.

"NSW has better laws than some other states but they could definitely be tightened up."

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Mr Barrie said the National Health and Medical Research Council stated teenagers should delay drinking as long as possible, due to effects of alcohol on developing teenage brains.

Mrs Morgan agreed, and said her son would have to be at least 17 before giving him alcohol.

"If kids are at home, and have one or two drinks with mum and dad at a barbecue or party, it helps them get used to alcohol a little bit," she said.

"Otherwise, they go out for the first time when they're 18, drink a lot, get sick and get into trouble. That's where the danger is."

Mr Barrie welcomed an inquiry into alcohol legislation and said research showed reducing availability of alcohol in any way did show a decrease in alcohol consumption. But he also noted a paradox in this situation.

"A lot of parents believe that supplying to their children is illegal but they still do it anyway," he said.

Dapto mother Fiona Morgan. Picture: GREG TOTMAN

Dapto mother Fiona Morgan. Picture: GREG TOTMAN

"I think the real issue is making parents more aware of the decisions they make and the effects it can have, which would make a greater consensus in that delaying alcohol use is the best option."

The inquiry is ongoing. For more information, see www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/socialpolicy.


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