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London's under-age drinking is on the rise

Published:  17 June, 2009

London's 11-15 year olds are causing serious concern after a new report reveals they are drinking the equivalent of 180,000 bottles of lager every week.

The London Assembly have revealed its first comprehensive assessment of the drinking habits of the capital's young people and figures have shown that the amount they drink is on the rise.

Almost 2,000 young people in the capital are receiving specialist treatment for alcohol dependence. Alcohol-related hospital admissions have almost doubled in recent years and calls to the London Ambulance Service relating to young people drinking have increased 27 percent in just four years.

The report named,"Too much too young?'" also reveals that although they drink less than their peers elsewhere in the country, more than a third of young Londoners are regular drinkers.

During its ten-month investigation, the Assembly Health and Public Services Committee identified some worrying statistics about young Londoners' drinking habits . Young women aged 11-15 are drinking more heavily and hospital admissions for them are almost double those for men of the same age because of their lower tolerance of alcohol.

There has also been a substantial increase in the proportion of young people from Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities who drink. This raises concern that these recent increases could be the start of an ongoing trend.

James Cleverly, chairman of the London Assembly Health and Public Services Committee, said: "We are very concerned by our findings that young Londoners are drinking more and more often than a few years ago. Young people's drinking is having serious repercussions on their health and on public services.

"We hope this report will highlight the problem, as well as outlining a set of recommendations that will help young Londoners stay safe with alcohol and to ensure this issue is given the priority it deserves."

The investigation advises that the Mayor and local leaders need to focus more effort on tackling alcohol and that local alcohol-harm reduction champions should be appointed in boroughs where alcohol-specific hospital admissions for young people are higher than the national average.

The Committee makes other recommendations which include reducing the supply of which alcohol to under 18s and involves the local council working together with the police, alcohol retailers and others to tackle underage alcohol sales through awareness raising, intelligence sharing and joint operations.

Chris Sorek, chief executive of Drinkaware said: "Many young people see drinking alcohol as a rite of passage and an ordinary part of growing up, but rather than being 'cool', drinking too much can put young Londoners at risk of violence, health harms and unwanted pregnancies.

"The reality is that many young people don't actually drink - but those that do can increasingly get themselves into tricky situations.

"Young people should be supported to make choices about whether or not to drink. Parents, teachers, health professionals, charities, the drinks industry and central and local governments all have a part to play in reducing the harm caused to young people by alcohol misuse."