Page last updated at 23:09 GMT, Wednesday, 1 July 2009 00:09 UK

Youngsters 'drinking dangerously'

Teenager drinking alcohol
The number of young drinkers is starting to fall

One in four young drinkers consumes dangerous quantities of alcohol every week, but the number of under-age drinkers is falling, a poll shows.

A survey of 13,000 young people by the Trading Standards Institute found the number of teenagers who drank weekly fell from 50% in 2005 to 38% this year.

But of these, a quarter are drinking more than 20 units a week - equivalent to about 10 pints of beer.

One in 20 of these drinkers also drinks alone, the research found.

The most popular drinks remain vodka-based alcopops, but cider is also making a comeback - increasing significantly in popularity since 2005.

Trading Standards North West, which carried out the poll, said it intended to write to the firms behind these drinks to "seek clarification of the plans for action to reduce their appeal to young people".

The majority of young people said they obtained their alcohol from relatives and friends over the age of 18.

Regrettable sex

Guidelines suggest men should drink no more than three to four units a day and women between two and three.

While a quarter of drinkers claimed to regularly binge drink, this number was down slightly from the previous survey.

A higher proportion of males than females claim they never drink or never binge drink.

Other findings included one in six regretting having sex after drinking.

Dr Ruth Hussey, regional director of Public Health, said: "The amount of alcohol consumed by some teenagers is of great concern.

"Not only does it pose a significant threat to their health, it puts them at greater risk of violence and unplanned pregnancy."

Alcohol Concern Chief Executive Don Shenker, chief executive of Alcohol Concern, said: "For many young people experimentation with alcohol is a natural part of the transition into adulthood.

"Unfortunately, and for a complicated mix of reasons, youthful curiosity can sometimes give way to more harmful drinking patterns.

"As a result, public services are increasingly under pressure to cope as young people put themselves at risk of intoxication, accidents or being the victims of crime.

"The government needs to get to grips with the pocket-money pricing and easy availability of alcohol - it is simply too cheap and too easy for underage drinkers to get hold of."

David Poley, head of drinks producers group the Portman Group, said: "There are strict rules to prevent drinks companies targeting under-18s through their marketing.

"The Advertising Standards Authority controls advertising and the Portman Group regulates all other forms of drinks producer marketing. There are independent complaints systems which Trading Standards should use if they have specific concerns about any brand."

• Drinking just four pints of beer a week could raise the risk of a person needing hospital treatment during their lifetime, according to research from the universities of Glasgow and Bristol.

The Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health study found men who drank between eight and 14 units of alcohol a week - equivalent to four pints, eight shots of spirits or eight small glasses of wine - were more likely to be admitted to hospital than those who drank fewer units or none at all.

The group was also likely to be kept in hospital for longer than people who drank less or abstained.

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