Melbourne, Apr 7 : Get ready to face fines of up to 500 dollars if your teenage children are going high on booze. This is the strategy that will be adopted by Sutherland state government to curb the growing binge-drinking epidemic in children as young as 10.
Under the 'Your Choice' program, parents will be forced to attend counselling with their teenagers, and in case they fail to do so, they will end up dishing out 500 dollars, as fine.
According to Daily Telegraph, the figures have revealed that four children, as young as 10 are being admitted to hospital daily for alcohol abuse.
The 'Your Choice' program is right now under trail by police and will be fining parents if they do not attend counselling sessions with their child who has been caught drinking. Currently, up to 140 underage drinkers and their parents are attending the counselling sessions in Sutherlands.
"Parents have two chances of turning up. If they don't end up attending the session, then the fine is issued," The Daily Telegraph quoted a police spokeswoman, as saying.
The move came in line with surprising new figures pointing out that in the past year, 1700 children had to be treated in hospital for alcohol abuse. However, according to leading emergency department doctors, this number was "just the tip of the iceberg".
Since March 2007 till February 2008, 1517 teenagers aged between 15 and 19 were treated in hospital emergency departments suffering from the effects of alcohol. Also, in the same period, 143 children aged between 10 and 14 also had to be treated.
However, the most shocking finding was the number of children who suffered from alcohol abuse before their 10th birthday. It was revealed that at least 12 children aged under 10 were treated for intoxication in the past year.
All these figures are restricted to children who were admitted in hospital just because of problems, which were alcohol related, like poisoning, intoxication or dependence. However, Dr Gordian Fulde, head of St Vincent's Hospital emergency department said that the actual number was "exceptionally higher".
"These figures do not include the young people who have been drinking and fallen over and broken their arm because they are drunk. We are an adult hospital so we see 15 years old and over and there's no shortage of them. When I see a kid coming in - some in wretched states - I think they are somebody's son or daughter," he said.
In fact, the Youth workers have also reported an increase in children who start indulging in alcohol at a young age. In the opinion of Wesley Noffs, CEO of the Tedd Noffs Foundation, alcohol-dependent children mainly belonged to "middle class" suburban homes.
"We are seeing more younger people who need help. We don't want to bring 12-year-olds into our program but we think there's a gap for the 11 to 14-year-old market. In some ways a young person who lives in a well-to-do household is going to get more access to alcohol," he said.
Meanwhile, health experts are demanding specific guidelines to be drawn up for parents on how to introduce their children to alcohol.