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Last Updated: Friday, 26 November, 2004, 13:46 GMT
Girls 'outstrip boys on alcohol'
Image of a girl drinking
Record numbers of girls are bingeing
The number of teenage girls bingeing on alcohol has overtaken rates among boys for the first time, UK figures show.

A third of 15-16-year-old girls admitted at least one binge drinking experience within the last month compared with a quarter of boys.

The European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Drugs team interviewed more than 2,000 pupils last year.

Lead author Professor Martin Plant from the University of the West of England said the findings were "unprecedented".

Binge drinking was defined as drinking more than five units of alcohol in one sitting over the preceding 30 days.

It says a lot about the changes in alcohol consumption.
Alcohol Concern spokesman

The study revealed binge drinking levels had fallen for boys since the last survey in 1999, while those among girl showed an upwards trend.

Professor Plant told an international conference on binge drinking in Bristol: "There is clearly a profound social change going on.

Record-breaking levels

"We have not seen this kind of increasing trend among young women in opposition to men, ever.

"What we have now got is a different underlying trend for young women that has come on in the last six years, and it is quite clear and quite strong."

He said government needed to do more to address Britain's drinking culture.

The recent Public Health White Paper announced a number of measures to curb the populations alcohol intake.

SAFE DRINKING GUIDELINES
One 175ml glass of normal wine (12%) = 2 units
One pint of normal strength lager (3.5%) = 2 units
A single (25ml) measure of spirits (40%) = 1 unit
Men are advised to drink no more than four units a day
Women are advised to drink no more than three units a day
Two to three alcohol-free days a week are also recommended

The government will work with the Portman Group to cut down binge drinking.

Ofcom will strengthen rules of broadcast advertising of alcohol, particularly adverts aimed at underage drinkers.

Alcohol manufacturers will be urged to include warnings to encourage sensible drinking on products and in advertising.

A spokesman from Alcohol Concern said: "It says a lot about the changes in alcohol consumption.

"But it's not just underage drinking among girls, it's women up to their mid 30s...and young men too. It's a national problem."

He said a number of factors were to blame, including a long-running British culture of drinking to excess, the opening of large "drinking emporia" in the place of traditional pubs and the introduction of alcopops "aggressively marketed at women as an easy source of alcohol".

Call for action

He said: "The government has started to make some progress but they have not gone far enough yet."

He said the danger was that the white paper recommendations would not kick in for a number of years.

"We would like to see it dealt with properly and effectively now."

A spokesman from the Portman Group said: "The figures are really worrying.

"We need to do more to understand why it's happening and then take action.

"Obviously the industry has a big role in making sure it markets and promotes products responsibly.

"We think the government needs to put more into education for cultural change.

"It's got to be a joint effort, coordinated through schools, parents, peers and tackling things like under-aged sales."

A report by the Department of Health based on a survey of more than 10,300 schoolchildren found under-aged drinking is a growing problem.

The average consumption of alcohol among schoolchildren in 2003 was 9.5 units a week, rising to 11.3 units for 15-year-olds.

Pupils were turning away from softer drinks, such as shandy, and towards spirits.

The proportion drinking spirits in the last week before the survey increased from 35% in 1990 to 64% in 2003.

Liberal Democrat health spokesman Paul Burstow said: "Teenage binge drinking is out of control.

"Ministers need to tackle the causes of this problem, not just treat the consequences.

"If children had more opportunities to take part in sport or social activities, then the numbers drinking and taking these drugs could be reduced."


SEE ALSO:
Women 'better at holding drink'
11 Oct 04 |  Health


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