The ease offered by the nation’s convenience stores has found to be positively associated with adolescent alcohol consumption, the authors of a study said yesterday in Taipei.
Researchers from National Taiwan University (NTU), Yang-Ming University and Academia Sinica co-authored a study published in Addiction, the journal ranked as having the most impact in the field of substance abuse research.
While publicizing the study’s results yesterday, the researchers said that the high density of convenience stores in Taiwan, while seemingly harmless, has taken its toll on how young people perceive alcohol and influenced their use of it.
“People often think substance abuse concerns the use of illicit drugs, and tend to lower their guard against alcohol, which is also an addictive substance,” said Chen Wei-jen (陳為堅), dean of the NTU’s College of Public Health and one of the study’s co-authors.
With the nation’s mixed residential and commercial neighborhoods and the “highest density of 24-hour convenience stores per person in the world,” the open display of alcohol in convenience stores, where it is sited next to non-alcoholic beverages, has made access to alcohol extremely easy for youngsters, said Chen along with Wang Shi-heng (王世亨), a post-doctorate academic from NTU’s Institute of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine.
The survey, which was conducted between 2004 and 2006, found that among senior high-school students, the percentage of teenagers who had drunk alcohol for the first time within the six months prior to the survey had increased from 13.5 percent in 2004 to 26 percent in 2006, and from 13.5 percent to 16.4 percent among junior-high school students, Chen said.
“The results of the study on the contextual influence of the availability of convenience stores on adolescent alcohol use have been found to be statistically significant,” Wang said.
“Even after adjusting for variables that might be positively correlated with recent alcohol use, such as gender, school type, school year level, truancy record, tobacco use, family situation and students’ level of disposable income we found that compared with students from a school district that has low-density convenience store distribution, the rates of recent alcohol consumption among students located in a school district with a medium or high density of convenience stores are 4 percent and 8 percent higher respectively,” Wang added.
Joyce Feng (馮燕), professor of social work at NTU and president of the Child Welfare League, advised communities to take autonomous action instead of waiting for government intervention, and suggested community volunteer groups promote awareness of the issue in their respective neighborhoods.
Feng also encouraged store vendors to highlight regulations prohibiting underage drinking in their stores to discourage alcohol consumption by underage drinkers.