PRESSURE is building for the NSW Government to change its "just say no" approach to alcohol education in schools ahead of the March election.
Youth affairs group Youth Action has called on the State Government to develop an education program for 15 to 17-year-olds that emphasises how to drink safely, rather than simply telling teenagers not to drink at all.
Youth Action policy and advocacy director Eamon Waterford said the current approach had failed.
"The current 'no tolerance' approach to underage drinking is not stopping teenagers from binge drinking," Mr Waterford said.
"It's time to admit the failure of the system and shift to a new approach that acknowledges that a high percentage of teenagers will experiment with alcohol, regardless of the advice from school.
"International studies have shown that harm minimisation programs in school can lower both risky drinking behaviour and alcohol consumption in general."
The 2001 National Drug Strategy Household Survey found young people aged 14-24 years consumed their first alcoholic drink at about 14.6 years for males, and 14.8 years for females.
"The NSW Government should be looking to ensure alcohol and other drugs education programs are accessible in all NSW schools," he said.
"Research indicates that parents who oversee drinking in their homes are more likely to have teenagers who drink at safer levels."
72.3% of 12-17 year olds have not consumed alcohol in the last 12 months
17% of 15-18 years old say that when drunk they had sex that they later regretted
Alcohol contributes to the three major causes of teen death: injury, homicide and suicide
Friends or acquaintances are the most likely sources of alcohol for 12-17 year olds (45.4%), with parents being the second most likely source (29.3%)