PRESSURE is building for the New South Wales 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 a comprehensive education program for 15 to 17-year-olds which 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 average Australian teenage male first drinks alcohol at the age of 15, with 55% of males and 30% of males aged 15-17 usually consuming five or more standard drinks during a session, Mr Waterford said.
"The NSW Government should be looking to ensure Alcohol and Other Drugs education programs are accessibly 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.
"While 'just say no' is a clear message, it is not a helpful one when the statistics show clearly that a majority of teenagers are, in fact, drinking anyway."