TV soaps blamed for encouraging young binge drinkers

Television soap operas were criticised yesterday for encouraging binge drinking over Christmas and the New Year. Research showed that alcohol was shown on peak-time television every eight minutes, said the charity Alcohol Concern.

Television soap operas were criticised yesterday for encouraging binge drinking over Christmas and the New Year. Research showed that alcohol was shown on peak-time television every eight minutes, said the charity Alcohol Concern.

Drinking scenes in soaps have almost doubled in the past 20 years, from 3.9 an hour in 1983 to seven an hour in 2003. The charity said the soaps made excessive drinking appear "normal, expected and unproblematic" without using story lines which show the "more problematic side of alcohol". Pubs such as the Queen Vic in EastEnders, the Rovers Return in Coronation Street and the Woolpack in Emmerdale, were often a focal point for the soaps, it said.

The charity's chief executive, Eric Appleby, said: "Portrayal of alcohol is almost one-dimensional. The message that comes across is that drinking is the norm and getting drunk carries no adverse consequences. This simply stokes the binge-drinking culture. Plenty of young people watch these prime-time shows, and recent figures tell us that drinkers under the age of 16 are drinking twice as much today as they did 10 years ago."

The charity cited figures showing that alcohol cost up to £6.4bn in the workplace, up to £1.7bn in costs to the NHS and up to £7.3bn in terms of crime and public disorder.

The Government has become increasingly concerned about binge drinking with evidence showing that many people are drinking almost every night of the week. In September, a government investigation found that alcohol-related problems cost Britain £2bn a year, and the binge drinking culture was responsible for about 20,000 deaths. The report showed young professional women were among the most prolific drinkers. Female managers and professionals were twice as likely to drink at least five days a week as those in other social classes, and they drank in greater quantities. A quarter of male professionals and managers drank at least five days a week.

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