Under-age drinking report welcomed

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ANTI-DRINK campaigners have welcomed a report which linked under-age drinking to the vast availability of alcohol.

Bosses at the North-East-based Balance group spoke out after the results of research commissioned by Alcohol Concern were announced today.

The study found that, for every two off-licences per 100,000 of population, there was one person aged under 18 being admitted to hospital due to drinking.

Colin Shevills, Director of Balance, said: “Alcohol’s wide spread availability, along with increase affordability and heavy promotion, has created an environment where consuming copious amounts of alcohol is viewed as normal and acceptable. This is particularly dangerous for children and young people – encouraging them to drink earlier and drink more, which puts them at risk and makes them vulnerable.

“In the North-East we have the highest rate of alcohol related hospital admissions for under 18s in the country. It’s not surprising that we also have some of the highest off-licence densities in England.

“Although more young people are choosing not to drink, there are still some that do and they are drinking too much. We need to support them and help them make the right choices – and increased availability is not helping the issue.”

The study showed that, in 2009, there were over 49,000 off-licensed premises in England and Wales which was an increase of more than 25 per cent over the past 30 years.

Alcohol Concern chief executive Don Shenker said: “It is a sobering thought that the numbers of off-licences in any one area has an impact on under-18s drinking and ending up in hospital. It is a failing of the current system that so many licences are being granted without due consideration to young people’s health.”

Mr Shevills added: “Alcohol can be purchased around the clock, in supermarkets, corner shops, even petrol stations.

“There are currently over 5,800 licensed premises in the region. I’d question whether this is really in the interests of our children, families and communities.”