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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 January 2008, 00:04 GMT
Pre-teens report problem drinking
Teenagers drinking
For some drinking starts before the teen years
Nearly half of disadvantaged youngsters start drinking before the age of 13 - with serious consequences for health and crime, research shows.

A poll of youngsters in a national youth programme found 42% started drinking before they were 13, with 29% saying they drink to get drunk.

The survey covered 1,250 members of the Positive Futures scheme, aged between 10 and 19.

One in four said their drinking had got them into trouble with the police.

Half of those questioned said drinking had led to fights, violence and aggression.

Positive Futures, a Home Office-funded scheme, operates in some of the UK's most deprived communities.

Now is the time to act
Clare Checksfield
Crime Concern

The poll, which questioned young people involved in the group's sports, arts and activity based programmes, also found drinking led to vandalism, and 17% said it led to sexual irresponsibility.

Risk taking

Clare Checksfield, chief executive of Crime Concern, which manages the Positive Futures programme, said: "Young people are taking risks with their health and with their future by getting involved in alcohol related violence."

Beer was the most popular drink, with 35% usually drinking it; 29% said they usually drank spirits, and cider and wine were the next most likely choices.

The survey found that the most common reasons for taking up drinking were that friends drank, and it looked like fun.

Nearly 20% wanted to experiment and to know what it was like, the survey said.

Half of those questioned said their parents condoned or did not care about their drinking, and 42% knew family and friends with alcohol-related problems.

Just over half (52%) said they got alcohol from their local shops, 22% got alcohol at home from their parents, or other family members, and a small number admitted to stealing from their house without their parents' knowledge.

Ms Checksfield said: "Now is the time to act. We need to tackle a wider drinking culture and together make certain parents and peer groups are involved."

According to government statistics young drinkers are consuming twice as much as was drunk by the young in 1990.

The poll found that nearly half of the young people thought sports and leisure activities were the key to reduce alcohol related crime and anti social behaviour. Many wanted more health information.

A Spokesman from Young Minds, a children's mental health charity, said: "The survey shows the vital importance of well co-ordinated support and education so that children can manage daily stress in their lives.

"Access to training and support is needed for parents, teachers and all those working with children."

A teenager on how she started drinking at 14


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