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The BBC's Sue Littlemore
"This is the traditional way of spending it - down the pub and getting drunk"
 real 56k

Monday, 19 February, 2001, 17:07 GMT
Alcohol firms blasted over youth danger
alcopops
Alcopops have been blamed for increasing teenage drinking
One in four deaths of young men is due to alcohol abuse, and experts are attacking alcohol companies for aggressive marketing.

World Health Organisation director general Gro Harlem Brundtland told a conference on youth and alcohol that the deaths were a "shocking and tragic waste."

One in three deaths among 15 to 29-year-olds in eastern Europe is due to alcohol abuse - one in four in Europe as a whole.

Dr Brundtland said: "By mixing alcohol with fruit juices, energy drinks and premixed "alcopops", and by using advertising that focuses on youth lifestyle, sex, sports and fun, the large alcohol manufacturers are trying to establish a habit of drinking alcohol at a very young age.

"They are clearly trying to attract the young.

"Not only are children growing up in an environment where they are bombarded with positive images of alcohol, but our youth are a key target of the marketing practices of the alcohol industry.


They are clearly trying to attract the young

Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, WHO
"We need to strengthen our work to counter these influences."

While focusing on the impact of alcohol on young drinkers, speakers will also challenge the idea that alcohol can prevent heart disease.

Government ministers and health specialists will also discuss ways of shaping attitudes and policies towards alcohol, including the role of advertising.

Critics have complained of the way young people are targeted and opponents have spoken out about what they call "alcohol harassment".

North-south divide

One study suggests that while many European countries have similar levels of consumption, northern Europeans are more prone to binge drinking and to alcohol-related suicide than drinkers in southern Europe.

Heavy drinking health risks
Liver damage
Osteoporosis
Pancreatitis
Shrivelled sex organs
Heart disease
Stroke
Dementia/ brain damage
Damage to unborn child
Increased risks of some types of cancer
Last week, the WHO warned that the misuse of alcohol by young people in Europe is increasing at an alarming rate.

It is estimated more than 50,000 young people die from drink-related causes in Europe each year.

In a report, the WHO says a pattern is emerging in which people drink alcohol too young, too often; and in which alcohol plays too important a role in their lives.

One argument which will be put to delegates is that while problems created by alcohol can be reduced, it will take a determined effort by governments and by health professionals to make the change.

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See also:

14 Aug 00 | Health
Binge drinking 'can damage brain'
25 Jun 99 | Health
Alcohol benefits debunked
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