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Last Updated: Friday, 15 June 2007, 02:00 GMT 03:00 UK
Teenagers risk sex health crisis
underage drinking
Teenagers were copying celebrity lifestyles by drinking, it said
UK teenagers are facing a "sexual health crisis" fuelled by alcohol, drugs and risky sexual behaviour, a report warns.

They are "defining their lifestyle" by this behaviour, encouraged by celebrity culture, the Independent Advisory Group on Sexual Health and HIV says.

The increase in sexually-transmitted infections and high teenage pregnancy rates are "disturbing", it says.

The Department of Health said sexual health was among its "top priorities".

The report said recent government campaigns had failed to recognise the link between drink, drugs and sexual health.

The IAG also points out that the UK has the highest rates of teenage pregnancy and sexual infections in Europe.

'Glamorising celebrity'

Increasing numbers of young teenagers are defining their lives by taking drugs, drinking alcohol and having under-age sex encouraged by today's celebrity culture, it says.

Professor Mark Bellis, head of the centre for public health at Liverpool John Moores University and one of the authors of the report, called the link between alcohol, drugs and risky sexual behaviour a "fuel for a sexual health crisis".

The IAG said young people were exposed to conflicting messages with "explicit or subliminal" advertising.

People worship at the church of celebrity and follow their examples and fashion and behaviour
Sam Watts

Coverage of celebrity behaviour was prevalent while other information was restricted, it said.

Anne Weyman, one of the vice chairs of the independent advisory group and chief executive of the fpa, said: "We need to look at it from young people's point of view.

"They see around them this culture of celebrities, in the newspapers, around sex and drugs, alcohol, all being brought together, and they're not being given alongside that the information and the education they need to handle issues like drugs and alcohol and sex as they're growing up."

'Distorted messages'

The advisory group, funded by the Department of Health, claimed restrictions on advertising condoms on television and the lack of compulsory sex education in schools was making the problem worse.

"There are restrictions on advertising condoms pre-watershed, and on showing a picture of a condom out of its wrapper. Our young people are therefore receiving distorted messages," it said.

It recommended condoms should be readily available to young people.

The IAG said teenagers who engaged in risky sexual behaviour were at greater risk of becoming young parents, contracting an STI, failing at school, building up longer-term problems as well as becoming addicted to alcohol and drugs.

In a statement the Department of Health said the issue of sexual health has been one of its top priorities an recent statistics showed the lowest levels of teenage pregnancies since 1993.

It also pointed to a reduction in drug use among young people.

The National Children's Bureau and The Sex Education Forum said in a statement: "With our current rates of pregnancy in the under 18's at their lowest for 20 years, our teenage pregnancy strategy is clearly having a significant impact.

"However, the government still needs to do more work on developing its national campaigns to support young people and their families." They called for better sex and relationship education in schools.

The findings follow a recent Unicef report which put Britain at the bottom of the league of 21 countries for children's well being.

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