UK youths take up alcohol by age of 13 years

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London, Feb 7: As many as 350,000 13-year-olds in Britain have already started drinking alcohol.

Informing this, British Home Secretary Jacqui Smith signalled tougher action against parents who encourage home drinking as she disclosed that ever-growing numbers of children regularly sampled alcohol when they entered their teens. ''We have now reached a point where more 13-year-olds have drunk alcohol than have not. This is clearly a cause for concern,'' the Independent quoted Ms Smith telling a conference on drink-fuelled crime here.

Nearly half of all violent attacks were linked to alcohol and that more than one quarter of people believed drunken rowdiness was a problem in their neighbourhood, she said, adding that nearly half of alcohol consumed by teenagers had come from the family home.

Calling for greater use of parenting orders, requiring families to keep better control of their children, when youngsters were found drinking in public, she said parents who refused to co-operate risked a 1,000 pound fine or a community order.

Police would mount a new drive from this month's school half-term holiday to confiscate alcohol from under-18s caught drinking in public, Ms Smith added.

She disclosed that the Home Office had commissioned the auditors KPMG to carry out undercover work to check whether pubs, clubs, off-licences and supermarkets were abiding by voluntary agreements to sell alcohol responsibly. It would focus on cut-price drink promotions and could result in a change in the law to force retailers into line.

A 10-million-pound advertising campaign this year would highlight the dangers of binge-drinking and raise awareness on the recommended levels of alcohol consumption among the minority of 18-to 24-year-olds, ''whose capacity for alcohol consumption seems to be matched in some cases only by an appetite for destruction,'' Ms Smith said.


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