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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 March, 2005, 12:24 GMT
Girls match boys in teen drinking
As many teenage girls as boys drink alcohol, a Department of Health study shows.

Data from a survey of 10,000 children aged 11 to 15 across England in 2004 showed 23% had drunk alcohol in the previous week, compared to 25% in 2003.

But for the first time since the survey began in 1982, the same proportion of girls as boys had had a drink.

While the number of boys drinking has fallen, the number of girls who drink has remained the same.

Drunkenness has not just become more acceptable among young women, it is now seen as desirable and even necessary
Alcohol Concern spokesman

The survey also found the numbers who misused drugs had fallen.

Ten per cent had taken drugs in the previous month, down from 12% in the previous year.

The report, published by the Department of Health, also showed the number of children who smoke had remained at 9%.

That figure has remained virtually static since 1999.

The survey was carried out by the National Centre for Social Research and the National Foundation for Educational Research. Children's attitudes to alcohol, smoking and drug misuse have been surveyed annually since 1982.

Declassification

The average weekly consumption among girls in 2004 was 10.2 units, compared to 11.3 units for boys.

In 1990, girls drank an average of 4.7 units in a week.

The recommended limits for adults are three units per day for women and four for men.

In terms of drug use, teenagers were far more likely to use cannabis than anything else.

Eleven per cent had taken the drug in the last year, down from 13% the previous year.

This latest survey is the first to be carried out since cannabis was declassified from a Class B to a Class C drug.

However, among 11 and 12-year-olds, misuse of volatile substances such as gas, glue and aerosols, was more common than cannabis, following a trend seen in recent years.

Four per cent had sniffed volatile substances over the last year, with 1% taking cannabis.

There was a fall in the number of teenagers who had been offered drugs, down from 42% in 2003 to 36%.

'Get a grip'

A spokesman for Alcohol Concern said: "New figures indicating a slight decrease in underage drinking are indeed encouraging, however we have a long way to go to wipe out the consistent increases over the last 10 years in the number of teen drinkers and the amount that they drink."

He added: "Drunkenness has not just become more acceptable among young women, it is now seen as desirable and even necessary.

"The marketing of booze-based lifestyles by the drinks industry and through the media has undoubtedly fed this and a more sustained effort to reduce underage drinking and to get a grip on alcohol education in schools is urgently required from the government."

Martin Barnes, Chief Executive, DrugScope, said: "It is encouraging to see that after a period of stabilisation in drug use amongst 11-15 year olds, usage has actually decreased across the board for this age group.

"We particularly welcome the drop in cannabis use. The fact that use has not rocketed as was predicted by some people at the time indicates that the government has been successful in communicating the message to young people that cannabis is still harmful and still illegal."

A Department of Health spokesman added: "These latest figures show that the proportion of young people who are taking drugs and drinking alcohol has decreased between 2003 and 2004, and that the number of 11 - 15 year olds who smoke has already achieved the 2010 target as set out in the Smoking Kills White Paper.

"We recognise that there is a lot more to do but we have got the measures in place on education and restricting the supply of drugs, alcohol and tobacco to help reduce these figures further."




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