Stats show worsening teenage drinking

National, Normal

The National – Tuesday, November 30, 2010

ALCOHOL consumption in PNG has gone from bad to worse with children beginning to drink at a very early age.
According to the Health Department there are a lot of policies in place to regulate the sale and consumption of alcohol but are not being implemented by responsible authorities.
Alcohol, including homebrew, is widely accessible to anyone in the country and has caused many social problems in communities.
Principal adviser for social change and mental health services (SCMHS) Dr Uma Ambi believes there is hope for change.
Ambi is heading a task force that is currently putting together the first ever national policy on reduce alcohol related harm.
The policy is aimed at reducing the harm caused by excessive consumption of alcohol by individuals, strengthening and ensuring that existing laws and policies on the production, sale and consumption of alcohol is enforced and regulated.
Ambi pointed out that the introduction of the policy was not to ban alcohol but to control its usage and reduce the harm it causes to individuals and families.
She said people could drink but they needed to limit the number of drinks that they consume.
She said there was a wide variety of alcohol and homebrew now available in the country and she questioned why people were drinking.
“If we don’t have the problem-solving skills to deal with housing, education and loan sharks it becomes stressful and drinking (alcohol) is obviously the normal but ineffective way of releasing stress,” Ambi said.
She said young people turned to alcohol when they drop out of school and find that they had nothing to do. 
This is one of the  key areas that the policy would be addressing.
The SCMHS will work closely with other stakeholders like the police, Customs, Law Reform Commission, Education Department, Community Development Department, churches and non government organisations.
The policy is still in its final drafting stage and had the input from different stakeholders.
Ambi told members of the task force that they should have it ready by early next year for submission to the National Executive Council.
She indicated that the policy had the full backing of health minister Sasa Zibe and the Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare and other ministers in the cabinet.