Tanked up teenagers

Tonight, about 13 young people will be admitted to hospital suffering from the affects of alcohol abuse.

Research shows that young people find it easy to get hold of alcohol and are drinking more than ever before. The consequences are serious as binge drinking puts the safety and health of young people at risk.

They drink for many reasons – not least because they can, because of peer pressure, and as a release from the trials and tribulations of adolescence.

And let’s be honest, many young people are simply following in the footsteps of the adults around them. Adult drink-related problems cost the British economy billions every year.

Since the mid-1990s, young people’s enthusiasm for alcohol has been gratefully exploited by the drinks industry. Thanks to a sophisticated and successful marketing campaign, we now have an alcopop generation who down sugary, colourful, alcohol-loaded drinks as if they were the soft drinks they are dressed up to be. The drinks industry’s voluntary code on packaging and marketing these products is not working – Alcohol Concern found that the peak age for drinking alcopops is 13-16, and that young people are not aware how alcoholic these drinks are.

Rather than doing more to address this, the government is focusing instead on ushering in new extended licensing laws from next month – despite fierce opposition from doctors, alcohol charities, the police and the judiciary.

We need to recognise that young people face enormous pressures in their lives, and drink is a release for them. Demonising them is not the answer – educating them is.

Schools, parents and youth services must talk to young people about alcohol and the risks it poses. And the government has a responsibility to consider its contribution and that of the drinks industry in turning us into a nation of teenage binge drinkers.

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