England has highest rates of child alcohol consumption, international study finds

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England has highest rates of child alcohol consumption, international study finds

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England has the highest rates of alcohol consumption among school children, according to a study of more than 40 countries by the World Health Organization.

The survey, published on Thursday, found more than half of 13-year-olds have drunk alcohol in England as have a third of all 11-year-olds, prompting child health advocates to call for more measures to protect teenagers.

The global health experts said that across the UK, 13- and 15-year-old girls were more likely to be drinking, smoking and vaping than boys of the same age.

Dr Hans Kluge, WHO regional director for Europe, warned that alcohol consumption among young people had been normalised around the world and posed “a serious public health threat”.

Alcohol abuse causes 3mn deaths a year globally, according to the WHO, and excessive consumption is a leading cause of death and physical and mental disability in young people.

The WHO has called for urgent stricter measures on social media advertising for these products to better protect young people whose brains and bodies are still developing.

“Considering that the brain continues to develop well into a person’s mid-20s, adolescents need to be protected from the effects of toxic and dangerous products,” said Kluge.

“Unfortunately, children today are constantly exposed to targeted online marketing of harmful products, while popular culture, like video games, normalises them.”

The study analysed data from 2021-22 relating to cigarette smoking, vaping and alcohol consumption in about 280,000 school-age children across 44 countries in Europe, central Asia and Canada.

The report comes after official data released on Monday showed the rate of UK deaths from alcohol-specific causes hit a record high in 2022, rising 41 per cent on pre-Covid pandemic levels.

The government said: “The health advice is clear — smoking, vaping and underage drinking can be damaging for young people and their development. That is why there are age restrictions on the sale of these products.

“We are creating the UK’s first smoke-free generation. Our landmark tobacco and vapes bill will make it an offence to sell tobacco products to anyone born after January 1 2009 and includes powers to limit flavours, packaging and displays of vapes to reduce the appeal to children.”

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