Alcohol and Young People

'It's the Drink Talking' is youth-driven project hosted by Alcohol Concern giving young people a voice on alcohol issues and the tools to create positive change. Check out the site www.itsthedrinktalking.co.uk

                           Boy with bottle

The 'Youth Policy project', which ran between 2009 and 2012, aimed to prevent and reduce alcohol harm amongst young people by raising awareness of the key issues affecting young people's relationship with alcohol. The project, funded by Comic Relief and the Tudor Trust, sought to understand how young people under 18 in England and Wales used alcohol, what shaped their decision-making and access to information and support.

By the age of 18 most young people in England and Wales have tried alcohol and most will go on to have a healthy relationship with alcohol drinking in moderation and responsibly. In fact it appears that an increasing number of children and young people are choosing not to drink, a recent survey suggests around half of 11 and 15 year-olds have never tried alcohol. However, the amount consumed by those that do drink has increased significantly with weekly consumption amongst 11 to 15 year-olds more than doubling since 1990. Growing numbers of these young people are experiencing problems related to their drinking including short term and longer term health harms as well as outcomes associated with risky behaviour such as regretted sexual experiences, violence, offending and personal injury. Over the last 20 years the picture is one of increasingly risky drinking amongst young people in the UK, and both England and Wales have some of the highest levels of drunkenness in Europe.

Our work

The project set up the Youth Alcohol Advertising Council (YAAC) - a group of young people from across England and Wales that reviews selected alcohol advertising against the codes that regulate content. YAAC is the first of its kind anywhere! YAAC's goal is that all alcohol advertising complies with the existing rules, including compliance with the spirit with which the codes were written. The group are particularly concerned that children and young people are appropriately protected from alcohol advertising practices and that the rules are adhered to and enforced. In May 2012 YAAC succesfully complained to the ASA that the marketing of Frosty Jack's cider was deliberately designed to appeal to under-18s. The website and YouTube videos have since been removed! Check out their quarterly reports Summer, Spring, Winter and Autumn.

In June 2013, based on the experiences of YAAC - underage exposure and the weakness of advertising self-regulation - Alcohol Concern launched 'Stick to the Facts' calling for a better balance between commercial freedoms and young people's protection from alcohol advertising.

In October 2011 we released 'Overexposed and overlooked: Young people's views on the regulation of alcohol promotion' that reported the findings of a survey of the views of over 2300 children and young people. The survey, designed by young people for young people, suggests that under-18s are highly aware of alcohol promotion and want robust regulation that protects them from exposure, whilst not wanting to stop advertisers reaching adult audiences. For example 60% want alcohol advertising limited to 18-rated films only in the cinema and a similar figure want alcohol advertising on TV limited to after the watershed (9pm). The report challenges government and relevant bodies to develop a framework of regulation that more accurately reflects what young people deserve and expect, whilst more systematically including their voices in regulatory decision-making.

Thank you to all those who completed the 'Alcohol Ads and You' survey that formed the basis of the survey. The five winners of the £50 incentive vouchers were; Miriam from Rhyl; Shahid from London; Amy from Crewkerne; Nickey from Tiberton; and George from West Green.

In September 2011 we published 'One on every corner: The relationship between off-licence density and alcohol harms in young people' based on new research that identified a link between off-licence density and alcohol harms in young people under-18. The study found that, excluding London which due to ethno-demographic factors has a different drinking culture to the rest of the country, increased alcohol availability through off-licence density also increases alcohol specific hospital admissions in under-18s. The study suggests one in ten such harms in under-18s could be a result of local off-licence density.

The general availability of alcohol through high off-licence density may increase the volume of alcohol in the home, as well as friends' access to alcohol - this ultimately translates into increased drinking and harms. Simply relying on better enforcement of existing regulation banning the sale of alcohol to minors to reduce harm may not therefore be enough protection. Government needs to introduce measures that reduce the general availability of alcohol by controlling off-licence density and include a public health objective on licensing in England, as seen in Scotland.

On April 2011 the we released a new briefing paper Reducing alcohol-related harm in accident and emergency settings that outlines simple steps that A&E departments can take to identify 'at risk' young drinkers in order to provide them with access to appropriate early interventions at times when they are more receptive to advice. The report recommends that alcohol-related attendances should always be considered a safeguarding concern that warrants intervention, including referral to specialist support. In addition, A&E health staff should be trained to identify alcohol-related attendances and given support in delivering brief harm-reduction interventions.   

In October 2010 the Youth Policy project launched a new report, Right time, right place: Alcohol-harm reduction strategies with children and young people. The report draws together expert practice guidance, experience from local level delivery and new research, including previously unpublished health data, to identify important next steps in harm reduction strategy with children and young people. Placing the public health of our children and young people at its centre the report focuses on opportunities to intervene in young people's drinking so that they are informed and able to make healthier choices about alcohol.  Findings from six consultation seminars held earlier in 2010 helped shape the report providing an empirical grounding for the policy recommendations by those working with alcohol and young people on a daily basis. 

The team is looking for a young man aged under-18 years to join the Youth Policy steering group on a voluntary basis, joining the two existing youth representatives - both young females - who currently participate. All expenses are covered and it's a great career development opportunity.

For further information please email: youthpolicy@alcoholconcern.org.uk

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