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Mon, Jan 24, 2000 - Page 4 News List

Teenage drinking problems on rise

ALCOHOLISM Although it is illegal for people under 18 to buy alcohol, a recent study has found that teenagers account for 25 percent of all alcoholics in the country

STAFF WRITER WITH AGENCIES

The incidence of alcoholism is rising fast across the country and teenagers are the fastest growing segment, according to the findings of a long-term study of the disease by six hospitals.

The study conducted by Tri- Service General Hospital (三軍總醫院) and other facilities shows teenagers now account for around 25 percent of alcoholics nationwide. This is despite the fact it is illegal for minors under the age of 18 to purchase alcohol.

The study indicates that the alcoholism rate has mushroomed from 0.015 percent 40-years ago to 1.5 percent today, a hundred-fold increase.

Doctors blamed the increase on TV and newspaper advertisements aimed at teens and a lax attitude towards the sale of alcoholic beverages.

Health workers have petitioned the government to regulate alcohol advertisements.

"We have made numerous requests but all to no avail," said a hospital worker.

Around NT$30 billion worth of beer, the drink of choice among teenagers, was sold nationwide last year, industry sources said.

Taiwan Beer took an 80 percent share of the market, according to industry sources.

Rock star Wu Bai (伍佰), who made several TV commercials for Taiwan Beer last year, helped the brand make a remarkable comeback, the sources said. The brand's market share had fallen to 75 percent in 1998.

A catchy advertising campaign focusing on Wu Bai helped boost sales last year, according to a spokesman from the Taiwan Tobacco & Wine Monopoly Bureau (台灣省菸酒公賣局).

However, Wu Bai has denied any responsibility for the increase in drinking among teens.

"The law states that alcohol shouldn't be served or sold to minors, so how are teenagers purchasing alcohol?" Wu Bai asked. "This is a problem for the government and the business community to work out," he said.

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