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alcohol health alliance uk

North East tops the table for young people in alcohol treatment

Posted 07/05/12

 New figures have revealed that the North East has the highest rate of under 18s in specialist alcohol treatment in England – twice the national rate.

Work carried out by Balance, the North East Alcohol Office, has shown that during 2010-11 more than 600 under 18s were in treatment in the North East – making up around 7% of the 9,450 people receiving alcohol treatment in the region.

In the North East the number of under 18s in treatment is currently 118 per 100,000 per population – this compares to an England average of 59 per 100,000 per population.

In response to these findings Balance is re-launching its campaign calling for more to be done to protect children and young people from exposure to alcohol, particularly through marketing and advertising, which encourages them to drink earlier and to consume more.

Melanie Souter, Manager of Matrix young people’s service based in the North East, said: “Although we acknowledge that the North East has problematic and excessive alcohol consumption, the worry is that the perception, particularly to young people, is that everyone drinks in the North East as a social and cultural norm. We must recognise that not all young people are drinking, however we have identified the proportion who are drinking are drinking to excess which remains a concern.

“Some young people who are drinking are doing so in a harmful and hazardous way with higher strength alcohol products at an affordable pocket money prices. Alcohol is now more accessible to young people with reinforced messages that it’s ok to drink to excess.

“Alcohol advertising reinforces messages that it is either cool, or it makes you more attractive or it’s something that everyone does to have a good time. This can make alcohol look appealing to young people particularly adolescents where acceptance in peer groups and gained confidence is important to them.”

At the heart of the Balance campaign is a petition calling on Government to introduce more meaningful regulations to stop the alcohol industry reaching children and young people through advertising and marketing.

Colin Shevills, Director of Balance, said: “The fact that we have the highest rates in England shows that we are getting our young people into treatment which is a positive step. There are some fantastic support services in the North East and they continue to help and support hundreds of young people.

“However, we want to resolve these problems before they get to such an advanced stage and reduce the number of young lives that are affected by alcohol.

“Our region is drinking too much from an early age driven by alcohol which is too affordable, too available and too heavily promoted. This makes our children vulnerable, increasing the likelihood of them becoming victims of crime, having unprotected sex, saying yes to drugs and damaging their education and potentially their future.

“It is particularly concerning as here in the North East we have the highest rate of 11-15 years olds who drink in England and the highest rate of under18s admitted to hospital because of alcohol.”

The Balance petition, which can be signed at www.balancenortheast.co.uk, calls for regulations to:
• prevent alcohol ads from targeting children and young people
• prevent alcohol ads from being shown on TV and in the cinema for under 18 certificate films
• prevent alcohol marketing through social networking sites
• prevent alcohol sponsorship of sporting and youth events.

Colin added: “Although the Government’s Alcohol Strategy aims to ‘turn the tide’ against binge drinking, it is weak on a clear strategy around the marketing and promotion of alcohol. Our concern is that it will remain effectively self regulatory. This is why we need to call on Government for change.

“We have created a society where alcohol plays too central a role in our lives. This needs to change. Our campaign has already received support from thousands of North Easterners and they have signed our petition at www.balancenortheast.co.uk to restrict alcohol advertising and stop the detrimental effect it is having on young people and their health, both now and in the future.”

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