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Last Updated: Thursday, 14 September 2006, 13:39 GMT 14:39 UK
Crackdown urged on youth drinking
Teenage boys
Cannabis, alcohol and tobacco use among young Britons is high
Tougher methods of teaching children about alcohol and tobacco are among measures needed to combat the rise in consumption, an advisory panel says.

The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) calls for controls such as raising duty on alcohol and increasing the legal smoking age from 16 to 18.

British 15-year-olds are among Europe's heaviest users of alcohol and tobacco.

A proposal by the panel for a new lower drink-drive limit for young adults was immediately ruled out by ministers.

HAVE YOUR SAY
The more available you make drink, the worse the problem will get.
Stephen Reimer, East Grinstead

Between a fifth and a quarter of 15-year-olds are regular smokers, half drink alcohol at least once a week and nearly a quarter have used illegal drugs in the past month, the panel said.

Among the measures it recommends are to ban alcohol advertising on TV and to prevent brewers sponsoring sports and music events.

And while it said that children should be given drugs advice, many people took up drugs or increased usage in their late teens and early 20s, and they should also be targeted.

Having reviewed research from across the world, the committee of doctors and scientists concluded that the success of school-based schemes was "slight or non-existent" and could even be "counter-productive".

REALITY CHECK
Smokers die 10 years younger than non-smokers, on average
The addiction is the cause of 29% of all UK cancer deaths
Cigarettes have killed about 6m people in the last 50 years
Alcohol misuse leads to up to 22,000 deaths a year
Drink plays a role in about third of domestic violence cases
The NHS spends up to 1.7bn a year on alcohol misuse cases
Sources: Cancer Research UK, Prime Minister's Strategy Unit

Its chairman, Dr Laurence Gruer, said urgent action was needed to deal with alcohol use.

"We've seen over the last 10 to 12 years, particularly among young women, our consumption of alcohol has virtually doubled.

"We are also seeing across the whole of the UK a dramatic rise in the amount of cirrhosis of the liver that's caused by chronic drinking and we are now the fastest growing country in Europe in terms of alcoholic cirrhosis"

A government spokesman said measures were already being taken to combat smoking and drinking among young people.

We are working with the industry to reduce underage sales of alcohol
Government spokesman

Smoking rates among children aged 11-15 had reduced to 9% in 2005, and consultation was already being done on raising the legal age to purchase tobacco from 16 to 18.

"We are preventing the sale of alcohol to children by cracking down on irresponsible retailers and working with the industry to reduce underage sales of alcohol," the spokesman added.

The 100-page report included other recommendations including:

  • a ban on alcohol advertising on TV and at most cinemas
  • forcing shopkeepers to demand proof of age and greater use of under-age test purchases
  • stopping the use of drug testing and sniffer dogs in schools

The report said excess drinking caused the most widespread problems and suggested cutting the alcohol limit for drivers under 25 to reduce accidents.

The government has no plans to change the drink-drive blood alcohol limit from 80mg for young drivers or anyone else
Stephen Ladyman
Transport minister

This would amount to reducing the legal limit from 80 to 50 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood for motorists aged 17 to 25.

But Transport Minister Stephen Ladyman said there were no planned changes "for young drivers or anyone else".

Ministers are likely to consider the council's latest proposals carefully, BBC home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw says.

The council is an influential body and ministers acted on one of its previous recommendations by re-classifying cannabis.

In response to the report, the Tobacco Manufacturers' Association said it backed moves preventing young people accessing tobacco, but it was up to the government to decide at what age the threshold should be.

A spokesman for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents said cutting the drink-drive limit to 50mg for all age groups would save 65 lives and 230 serious injuries a year on British roads.




VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
The report's author on why action is needed



SEE ALSO
Brewers defend music sponsorship
14 Sep 06 |  Entertainment
US drugs tsar backs pupil tests
10 Aug 06 |  Education
Schools 'must teach about drugs'
27 Jul 06 |  Education
Drugs tests in schools 'extreme'
31 May 06 |  Education

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