Cheap alcohol influences young adults' drinking habits, says report

teen drinkingThe low price of booze appears to be taking its toll on young people and could be increasing their risk of developing an alcohol addiction.

A new study published by the charity Alcohol Concern and Balance, has revealed worrying trends regarding teens and young adults, and their attitude to getting drunk.

The report, entitled Binge - Drinking to get drunk: influences on young adult drinking behaviours, found that many of those aged 16 to 24-years-old cite the cheap price of alcoholic drinks as a reason for imbibing excessively.

Many also consider "drinking to get drunk" as a prime reason for having alcohol in the first place, and agreed that this was largely the way that most young people relate to it.

Worryingly, those who took part in the study revealed that the way in which alcohol is promoted cheaply encourages their excessive drinking, with some noting that it is cheaper to buy  a three-litre bottle of cider than it is to buy a ticket to the cinema.

Unfortunately, it seems as though cheap alcohol is becoming increasingly available, especially to young people. Today, it is, in relative terms, 44 per cent cheaper than it was in 1980, and the number of off-licensed retailers has surged by 25 per cent.

Colin Shevills, director of Balance, the North East Alcohol Office, commented: "Alcohol is too affordable, too available and too heavily promoted, encouraging young people to drink from an early age."

One problem is the fact that they increasingly view binge drinking as the normal. A Home Office study of Britons aged 18 to 24 found that many saw drinking to excess as simply a part of their culture.

The respondents seemed to actively enjoy getting drunk, and cited a number of perceived benefits. These included meeting new people, socialising with friends, improving social confidence and relaxing.

A large proportion of participants also said that they drank alcohol in order to forget or escape from their problems.

What is more, figures show that Britons are more likely to have experienced getting drunk by the age of 13 than any other European nation.

Mr Shevills believes that the government needs to set a minimum unit price of at least 50p, and that this will go a significant way towards guarding young people from alcohol abuse.

"This would increase the price of the cheapest, strongest alcohol, such as strong white cider, protecting vulnerable younger and heavier drinkers who are more likely to drink cheap alcohol and suffer the consequences.

"The measure will save lives, reduce hospital admissions, cut crime and protect young people. We believe it's a small price to pay," he concluded.

Tom Smith, programme policy manager of Alcohol Concern, states that the survey results show just how urgent it is that the government takes action because it provides proof of the detrimental effect that cheap pricing is having on the health and wellbeing of the younger generation.

"They have told us loud and clear that the way in which alcohol is priced influences the way they drink," he said.

The report comes ahead of Alcohol Awareness week, which this year runs from November 19th to 25th under the theme 'It's time to talk about drinking'.

Eric Appleby, chief executive of Alcohol Concern, hopes it will encourage Britons to have the right conversations in order to protect the younger generation.

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