By JR on Sunday, July 10, 2011
Have they learnt nothing from America's experience of prohibition?
THE most powerful clinical body within the WA Health Department has called for an increase in the legal drinking age to 20 or 21.
The Clinical Senate of WA has presented a position statement to Health Minister Kim Hames urging the move as one way to combat rampant alcohol abuse and its impact on the health system and young lives. New figures show alcohol-related hospital admissions cost WA taxpayers $95 million a year.
The senate's call puts the influential group at direct odds with Dr Hames, who told The Sunday Times that he did not support lifting the age.
The senate comprises 75 elite health professionals, including Public Health executive director Tarun Weeramanthri, chief medical officer Simon Towler, Princess Margaret Hospital boss Robyn Lawrence and King Edward Memorial Hospital boss Amanda Frazer.
It has called also for an end to the practice of handing out alcoholic gifts at medical conferences and dinners.
The senate's chair Kim Gibson said evidence from the World Health Organisation and other eminent bodies had shown that raising the drinking age helped to reduce alcohol-related injuries. "The driving age and the drinking age are very close in WA," she said. "If you're able to separate them, you can have some impact on the road trauma figures."
She said also that 18-year-olds were too immature to drink. "One issue is the maturity of the brain and behaviours around risk," she said. "The younger population is into risk-taking and so if you wait for more maturity you're not matching the risk-taking with the alcohol consumption." [But they are old enough to risk their lives in the armed forces??]