9 Jan 2014

Boy 'extreme example' of drink culture

5:30 pm on 9 January 2014

An anti-alcohol abuse group says New Zealand should not be surprised by a child who has appeared drunk at a Hamilton skate park in a video posted on the internet.

The footage posted on YouTube on Tuesday shows the nine-year-old stumbling and struggling to walk. He says he drank 18 pre-mix bourbon drinks and asks the man filming it not to show his video to police.

A screen grab of the boy from the video footage.

A screen grab of the boy from the video footage. Photo: YOUTUBE

Police have investigated the incident and say they believe adults provided alcohol and charges are possible.

Alcohol Action New Zealand spokesperson Professor Doug Sellman told Radio New Zealand's Summer Report programme on Thursday the incident is an extreme example, but unfortunately is not unique.

"This is the natural outcome of a heavy drinking culture where you've got 800,000 heavy drinkers in New Zealand."

A paediatrician at Starship Children's Hospital in Auckland said the hospital sees many teenagers and some children as young as 12 who are drunk, but it is rare for a nine-year-old to be hospitalised for alcohol.

Dr Patrick Kelly said the children or teenagers turning up at hospital are drunk on RTDs like pre-mixed bourbon and cola. He said they are actually suffering alcohol poisoning and serious brain injury can result.

The chair of Child and Youth Mortality Review Committee, Dr Nick Baker, said very few alcohol-related deaths occur in the five to 14 age group, but every year there are cases of people under 18 who die directly from alcohol poisoning and a larger number are killed because of the effects of drinking.

"This may be through driving, through taking risks with water, through falling off cliffs and also getting into fights."

Hamilton City Area Commander Inspector Greg Nicholls said the boy's mother did not supply alcohol and is extremely distraught by the incident.

"On discussion with the mother and having an assessment of the home situation we're quite comfortable that the care and protection of the child is assured by that mother," he said.