Youngsters are damaging their health by turning to strong booze sold at “pocket-money prices”, say campaigners.
But now, regional campaigners are demanding action to make it harder for youths to get their hands on alcohol.
Officials from the alcohol awareness group Balance are backing calls for an increase in duty on spirits in the emergency Budget. It comes as research, led by Alcohol Concern and regionally partnered by Balance, shows spirits, particularly vodkas, to be among the most popular drinks of choice for children accessing treatment for alcohol.
Alcohol misuse currently costs the NHS £3.5 billion a year. The cost in the North East, which has the highest rate of alcohol-specific hospital admissions for under-18s, is around £242m.
But Balance officials believe a rise in spirit duty of four per cent above inflation would help relieve the financial strain on the NHS. Balance director Colin Shevills said: “Alcohol industry advertising continues to reach the most vulnerable members of our society with products sold at pocket money prices and advertising which promotes drinking as a means to have fun.
“In the UK, television advertisements for alcohol are seen by children more often than adults.
“They must be restricted by Government if we want to reduce the harm that alcohol is currently causing younger generations.” He said the Chancellor should protect the most vulnerable members of society “by not bowing down to the alcohol industry and supporting targeted alcohol policies such as the spirits duty rise.”