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Almost half of all teenagers have been able to buy booze

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The American Medical Association has some advice for parents: Put a lock on that liquor cabinet.

According to a survey released by the AMA yesterday, almost half of all teenagers have been able to buy booze despite being under the legal drinking age - and even more kids say it's easy to slip into the liquor cabinet without their parents' knowing about it.

Parents of teenagers aren't doing enough to stop it, the data show.

Twenty-five percent of parents admitted that they allowed their teens to drink alcohol under their supervision. The same percentage of parents said teens should be able to drink at home with their mom or pop present.

And even when parents aren't home, teens are able to get liquored up fairly easily, the survey shows.

Nearly half of teenagers drink, the survey shows, even though the legal age is 21. One-third of teens get alcohol from their parents - with their parents' consent. That number jumps to 40 percent when friends' parents are included.

One in four teens have attended a party where minors were drinking in front of parents. And, most alarming, two-thirds of teens said they obtain their libations directly from their parents' liquor cabinet - without the 'rents knowing about it.

In all age groups, girls nearly always ranked higher than boys in obtaining alcohol.

"These findings are, frankly, disturbing," said AMA President J. Edward Hill. "While it is of great concern to see how easily teens, especially young girls, get alcohol, it is alarming to know that legal-age adults are supplying the alcohol."

Many parents allow their children to drink at parties in their homes in an effort to curtail unsupervised drinking.

But Hill cautioned that there is no such thing as "safe" drinking where minors are concerned.

"Injuries and car accidents after such parent-hosted parties remind us that no parent can completely control the actions of intoxicated youth, during or after a party," he said. "And the main message children hear is that drinking illegally is OK."

Hill pointed out that the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has reported that underage drinking is a leading cause of death among youth.

And the Department of Health and Human Services has said alcohol is linked to two-thirds of all sexual assaults and date rapes of teens.

"Law-enforcement efforts to stop minors from obtaining alcohol are important, but this data reveals how easily avoided those policies and laws can be when legal-aged buyers are the leading source of alcohol for children," Hill said.

"And even parents who do not buy for their children could be unwitting sources if their alcohol at home is left unsecured."

Copyright 2004 NYP Holdings, Inc. All rights reserved.

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