Teenage binge-drinking toll revealed

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Teenagers are drinking 44 bottles of wine or 177 pints of beer a year each, a new study into under-age alcohol intake and violence shows.

The figures relate to 15- to 16-year-olds in the North West of England and stem from a study of 9,833 such youngsters.

The report, produced by the Centre for Public Health at Liverpool John Moores University, Trading Standards North West and the Home Office, also states: of 190,000 15s-to-16s 57,000 binge-drink by taking five or more drinks in one session.

Also: as many as 40% of teenagers in poor areas binge drink; just under half of those surveyed drank at least once a week, with 40% of girls and 42% of boys later involved in violence; and poor children were 45% more likely to be violent after drinking than children in affluent areas.

Professor Mark Bellis, co-author of the report and director of the Centre for Public Health, said: "These figures highlight the sheer quantity of alcohol being consumed by under-age drinkers across the North West.

"Sadly, there is still practically no information publicly available on what is a safe amount of alcohol for children to consume or on how parents can best moderate their children's drinking.

"Without a clear message that under-age drunkenness will not be tolerated, we will continue to see the high levels of alcohol bingeing and related violence identified in this study.

"All too often such bingeing and violence not only damages children's lives but also results in whole communities feeling threatened by gangs of drunk teenagers."

The findings are published just weeks after three teenagers were jailed for the murder of father-of-three Garry Newlove, 47, in Warrington.

Yesterday, Brendan Harris, 15, was convicted of murdering pretty Goth Sophie Lancaster in Lancashire after drinking two litres of cider, a bottle of Stella Artois and peach schnapps.

Dominic Harrison of the North West Regional Office of the Department of Health said: "This research confirms the almost daily experience of both young people and adults across the region who can see for themselves the rising problem of drunkenness amongst a significant proportion of young people.

"Young people from less wealthy backgrounds appear to be most at risk, but the problem is apparent across the whole of society. The principle cause of the increased risk is lower prices and increased availability, but culture and the increasing social tolerance of drunken behaviour is also a factor.

More than a third of those surveyed admitted buying their own alcohol - which was an "ongoing challenge" for Trading Standards, said North West officer Richard Lindley.

He said: "Individual Trading Standards services are committed to assisting legitimate businesses to comply with the law but will use enforcement methods to tackle those who continue to illegally sell alcohol.

"Under-18s continue to obtain alcohol by asking strangers outside shops and also friends who either look or are over 18 to buy for them. The report highlights that under-18s who obtain their alcohol this way are more likely to binge or frequently drink and to drink in public places.

"These purchasers need to be aware they are fuelling problems in our communities and committing criminal offences themselves for which they can face police fines."

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: "The Government is determined to reduce the harm caused to young people by alcohol misuse and is committed to educating young people on the very real harm it can cause.

"Alcohol education is now part of the National Curriculum. Updated guidance makes it clear that alcohol education should be about sensible drinking and reducing harm.

"The Government has funded a high-profile alcohol campaign, 'Know your Limits' aimed at 18-24 year old binge drinkers, warning them of the harms associated with binge drinking."

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