Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Average 14-yr-old can buy 30 units of strong alcohol a week on pocket money

Latest figures published in The Mirror newspaper show that the average price per unit (roughly equivalent to a half pint, or a shot of whisky) of strong alcohol is just 17p.

The average 14 to 16-year-old receives between five and six pounds a week pocket money - about 30 units worth.

We're in the middle of a public health emergency with our children drinking more and more - and suffering the ill-effects. Brighton and Hove admits ten times as many people to hospital with alcohol-related injuries than the national average.

Earlier this year I joined up with Sussex Police Licensing Manager Jean Irving to take part in a Government consultation on guidelines for alcohol retailers.

We called (amongst other things) for a ban on supermarkets using alcohol as a 'loss-leader', and selling it for less than it cost in the first place.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport, of course, ignored us: it seems Mandelson, Brown and so on are more interested in listening to their friends in retail - and the supermarket sector - than the police and local communities.

We simply must recognise that our efforts to stamp out the enormous harm done to children by excessive drinking isn't working, and that we need some pretty drastic measures to get it back on track.

That means banning the worst excesses of the supermarkets, as well as accepting that we ought to divert some of our efforts away from dissuading teenagers from smoking cannabis into reducing alcohol-related harm.

It means moving away from criminalising a generation of teenage drinkers to an approach based on minimising harm.

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