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alcohol health alliance uk

More needs to be done to protect young people from alcohol harm

Posted 25/07/13

The proportion of school pupils who have tried drinking alcohol is highest in the North East,according to the latest figures published by the Health & Social Care Information Centre. The finding published in Smoking, drinking and drug use among young people in England in 2012 revealed that in the North East over half (51 per cent) of pupils aged between 11 and 15 have ever drunk alcohol.

Despite the number of young people choosing not to drink is increasing, those that do are drinking too much and it is having a harmful impact on young people here in the North East.

Colin Shevills, Director of Balance, the North East Alcohol Office, said: “Today’s figures from the Health & Social Care Information Centre demonstrate once again that the Government’s alcohol strategy is failing. It is failing at the expense of public health and in this case the wellbeing of children in the region.

“Pocket money prices, widespread availability and heavy marketing have established drinking as a social norm and it is having a harmful effect. Here in the North East we have the highest rate of under 18 alcohol specific hospital admissions and the highest rate of under 18s in alcohol treatment.

“Only a week ago the Government shelved plans to introduce a minimum unit price for alcohol, a measure which would have helped protect vulnerable younger drinkers who are more likely to drink cheap alcohol. Despite Government and industry suggestions to the contrary, the evidence base behind the introduction of a minimum unit price is strong and getting stronger.

“Alcohol is more available than ever before. It can be purchased 24/7, in soft play areas, florists and round the clock in petrol stations. It is sending the message to our children that alcohol should be central to every part of our lives.

“Since the launch of the alcohol strategy it appears that the only real benefits are being felt within the alcohol industry – with little effect on price, promotion or availability. This is an industry that continues to position alcohol as a social norm and pushes young people towards its products – with recent studies showing that alcohol advertisements on TV reach more children than adults.

“Clearly alcohol is the drug of choice for young people in the North East – and it isn’t surprising considering the alcohol industry does everything in its power to give the impression that you can’t have fun, be popular or be successful unless it is part of your life. It’s time the Government took responsibility for the health and safety of our children out of their hands.”