Under-age drinkers in the North East increase alcohol intake during pandemic, figures show

A third of under-age drinkers in the North East are consuming more than they did before the pandemic, say experts.

Monday, 24th May 2021, 11:41 am
Sue Taylor of Balance

North East alcohol campaign group Balance says a new survey suggest nine out of 10 children under the age of 15 are not drinking regularly – but one in three who do are drinking more.

And after a year in which the pandemic has disrupted the lives of many teenagers, teachers have backed Chief Medical Officer guidance for parents to help children avoid alcohol as long as possible at a crucial time in their education.While most alcohol comes from the family home, alcohol is still sold at ‘pocket money’ prices from shops and supermarkets, Balance says.

The organisation said it is possible to buy 2.5 litres of 7.5% strong cider for less than £5 – and the equivalent of nearly 19 shots of vodka. Balance has launched a regional “What’s the Harm?” campaign – aimed at providing parents with information about the risks of under-age drinking.Sue Taylor, acting head of alcohol policy at Balance, said: “Every parent wants the best for their child and we have all seen during the pandemic the devastating impact of alcohol on physical and mental health.“The reality is that most children don’t drink and we should not encourage them to.

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"One of the biggest myths among parents is that providing children with alcohol can help them “handle” drinking when they’re older, but the evidence is clear that consuming alcohol at a young age can give children a taste for regular and heavier drinking.”She added: “The fact is that alcohol is a harmful substance and the longer we can delay our children from drinking alcohol the better.

"We also need action on alcohol marketing aimed at young people and on price.”Melanie Soutar manages the Matrix Young People's Drug and Alcohol Service in South Tyneside, said “Many young people we work with get into difficult and sometimes dangerous situations due to excessive use of alcohol and the subsequent health and social implications are extremely worrying.“The findings of the Balance survey are worrying and parents need to be aware of the potential consequences. "