Page last updated at 00:47 GMT, Thursday, 14 January 2010

Bill Bailey and Jo Brand front teenage drinking ads


Comedian Bill Bailey is among those in the campaign

Comedians are fronting a new advertising campaign urging parents to warn their children about the dangers of drinking too much alcohol.

The comics, including Bill Bailey and Jo Brand, say there is huge pressure on teenagers to get drunk.

Jo Brand says she drank heavily during her teenage years and that this had put her in "dangerous situations".

Each year 6,000 children under 15 in the UK end up in hospital as of result of drinking alcohol.

Recent advice issued by England's chief medical officer, Sir Liam Donaldson, urged parents not to give children aged 15 or under any alcohol at home.

The latest campaign, by the Department for Children, Schools and Families, points out that young people are far more vulnerable to teenage pregnancy, accidents and poor academic results if they drink alcohol regularly.

Rather than send that message to children, this campaign tries to get their parents to speak to children about these dangers.

Ms Brand said: "As a teenager I was drunk probably from the age of 14 to about 19.

"That came from my family never even mentioning alcohol to me. I had a very strict family but they didn't explore the whole alcohol thing.

"It put me in the most ridiculously dangerous positions. You have so much false courage as a teenager and you just really can't trust anyone, because when you are drunk I think people take advantage of you."

Fellow comedians, including Russell Kane and Josie Long, have helped launch a campaign website.

Will it work?

However, Professor Colin Pritchard, a researcher into teenage drinking behaviour based at Bournemouth University, said that media campaigns could backfire and even "glamourise" teenage drinking.

You have so much false courage as a teenager and you just really can't trust anyone because when you are drunk.
Jo Brand

He said ministers should instead focus on restricting the availability of alcoholic drinks, perhaps by following advice from Sir Liam to introduce a minimum price for alcohol.

"This government has been very flabby in controlling the supply of alcoholic drinks, particularly those with a high concentration of alcohol, which are marketed deliberately at young people," he said.

"Frankly, this has been irresponsible, and this campaign, while well intentioned, is a bit like shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted."

Don Shenker, of Alcohol Concern, welcomed the campaign and agreed parents could help steer their children away from problem drinking.

"Setting a good example by drinking responsibly also helps, as does knowing the facts and being honest with children about the harms that too much alcohol can cause," he said.

"But the cheap price of alcohol and the barrage of advertising undoubtedly encourage young people to drink.

"If the government continues to not act on those, it is losing the battle against risky underage drinking."

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