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Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 September 2006, 22:19 GMT 23:19 UK
Children 'order alcohol on phone'
Children drinking
Children use takeaway firms to order alcohol, an expert says
Children as young as 12 buy alcohol by ordering it over the phone with takeaways, a government adviser says.

Dr Sheila Shribman, the national clinical director for children, said the youngsters were using restaurant services to avoid suspicion.

She said it was a "worrying trend" and was particularly prevalent in north-western cities such as Liverpool.

Alcohol experts said alcohol abuse among young teenagers was a growing problem and needed to be addressed.

Contacts have told me that it is possible in some parts of the country for young people to order alcohol on the phone with takeaways so the delivery doesn't arouse suspicion
Dr Sheila Shribman, national clinical director for children

Nearly one in four secondary school children aged between 11 and 15 drink alcohol each week, according to government figures.

Cider, lager, beer and alcopops are the most popular drinks.

Dr Shribman said: "Contacts have told me that it is possible in some parts of the country for young people to order alcohol on the phone with takeaways so the delivery doesn't arouse suspicion.

"If this practice turns out to be widespread then it could be a very worrying trend.

"We need young people to understand there are dangers in binge drinking, such as liver disease, which is on the rise in young adults."

And she told the Nursing Standard magazine: "If children can do this when their parents are out it means that we are not on top of the problem."

Retailers

A spokeswoman for Alcohol Concern said: "While it is difficult to gauge the scale of this problem, it is clear that home deliveries of alcohol, either as part of a takeaway meal or grocery order, make alcohol more accessible to under-age drinkers because of the difficulty of checking the purchaser's age at the point of sale.

"Retailers need to face up to their responsibilities under the current licensing laws and put in place procedures to prevent under-age sales, for example by making it clear that proof of age will be required at the point of delivery and ensuring staff follow these procedures."

And Professor Martin Plant, an alcohol addiction expert from the University of the West of England, said: "Children are becoming increasingly inventive in how they get hold of alcohol, we must make sure that we are all wise to the methods being used."

But Professor Plant, who is organising a conference on alcohol abuse among young people in November, added current education awareness campaigns were not working.

"As alcohol in the UK has becomes ever more affordable, alcohol consumption and the rate of alcohol-related deaths continue to rise.

"The price that society is paying for this is a level of heavy drinking that causes violence, crime and disorder and damages health."

A Department of Health spokeswoman said the government said it took the issue "very seriously" and would be running a high-profile campaign to educate children about the dangers of drinking.


SEE ALSO
Parents 'should teach drinking'
13 Sep 06 |  Merseyside

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