Most teenagers have downed their first stiff drink before their 14th birthday, according to new figures showing Australians are drinking younger.
And girls are no longer lagging behind boys in their enthusiasm to get acquainted with alcohol.
Addiction specialists are urging parents to be more vigilant in delaying the age their child is introduced to alcohol on the back of changing drinking trends.
Research to be presented at a drug conference in Sydney shows the average age to start drinking has dropped more than five years in the past three decades.
"By the time most Australian teenagers reach 14 years of age more than half, about 55 per cent, have already had a full drink," said Dr Toby Freeman from the National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction at Flinders University in Adelaide.
The results are based on people now aged in their 20s. By comparison, a 60-year-old today typically started drinking between the age of 19 and 23.
"There is also no longer a gender difference in the age of alcohol initiation in Australia," Dr Freeman said.
"Females have been catching up to males and are now almost equal in the age at which they first experience alcohol."
Heavy commercialisation of alcohol, more products and wider availability, coupled with greater youth independence and more money in kids' pockets were probably driving the trend, he said.
Compounding the problem was an increase in levels of risky drinking.
The findings from the 2004 National Drug Strategy Household Survey found almost half of 18-year-olds were risky drinkers, downing more than five standard drinks in a day if they were female and more than seven for males.
Despite this, says Dr Freeman, only three per cent of young people who drink like this at least view themselves as heavy or binge drinkers.
Three-quarters of minors said it was easy to get alcohol if they wanted it.
Dr Freeman said the age teenagers start drinking was a critical factor for parents to watch out for, as research has found it can predict who will go on to develop addiction, other drug use and mental health problems.
"The high alcohol-related death toll among young people and the disproportionate alcohol-related harms experienced by younger age groups are very strong arguments for parental and government interventions seeking to delay the age of initiation," he said.