Balance, the North East Alcohol Office, is calling for more to be done to protect young people from the harms of alcohol as new figures reveal an estimated 16,500 young people in the region are drinking every week.
The 2016 ‘Smoking, Drinking and Drug Use among Young People in England’ report, published by NHS Digital, found that 12% of secondary school pupils in the North East are drinking regularly, compared with 10% nationally, while an estimated 9,300 have been drunk once or twice in the last four weeks.
The data, which surveyed 11-15-year-olds, also reveals that nearly half of young people (49%) – about 67,000 – have drunk alcohol in childhood, compared to 44% nationally.
This puts the North East among the highest in the country, just behind the North West at 50% and on a level with Yorkshire and the Humber (49%).
Colin Shevills, director of Balance, said: “Clearly these figures are worrying, particularly when the medical advice strongly recommends no alcohol before age 15.
“We know that more young people are choosing not to drink, but today’s findings demonstrate that more still needs to be done.
“It’s time that the alcohol industry stops sending out dangerous messages to young people normalising alcohol consumption and suggesting alcohol is needed to have fun and be popular.
“Evidence shows that someone who begins drinking as a young teen is four times more likely to develop alcohol dependence than someone who waits until adulthood to drink alcohol.”