Boozing youngsters in North Wales put health at risk

Reporter:

Helen Davies

PEOPLE working with youngsters in Flintshire and Wrexham have welcomed new advice that under-15s should not drink any alcohol.

This is the warning being given to parents from Dr Tony Jewell, the Chief Medical Officer for Wales.

Research shows that four out of 10 Welsh 15-year-olds drink alcohol every week and that two out of 10 report having been drunk for the first time aged 13 or younger.

Dr Jewell said evidence shows the younger people start drinking, the greater the long-term impact on their health and well-being.

He added that the cost to the NHS in Wales of treating alcohol-related health problems currently stands at between £70-85 million a year.

Dr Dilip Menon, emergency department consultant at Wrexham Maelor Hospital, commended Dr Jewell’s advice and says under-age drinking is a regular problem in Wrexham.

He told the Leader that in 2009 about 30 under-16s were seen for alcohol intoxication.

He said: “The big worry, apart from the effects alcohol can have on young brains, is the risk of accidents. The children take more risks as they get less inhibited.

“Parents usually don’t know their children are drinking and are often very upset. I think sometimes it’s peer pressure: the way they behave with their parents is very different from how they are with their friends.”

North Wales Police say parents should be mindful of what their children are up to in the evenings and at weekends.

North Flintshire Insp Dave Roome said: “The risk to young people’s health from alcohol is significant. It also generates anti-social behaviour and can cause inappropriate sexual behaviour which really does put young people at risk.

“Anyone asked to buy alcohol for under-age drinkers should be very aware not just of the legal implications but the potential outcome for young people and what it can lead to.”

Flint Castle councillor and Wrexham teacher Ian Roberts described Dr Jewell’s advice as sensible, adding: “I know from my own ward the problems under age drinking can cause.

“Parents should execute considerable influence on the children. I’m in favour of the Challenge 21 (proof of age) scheme. There needs to be a clampdown on the sale of alcohol to young people.”

Cllr Bernie Attridge, chairman of Flintshire’s licensing committee, said he sees 13 and 14-year-olds in the park behind his house “walking all over the place” because they have to much to drink.

He said: “I welcome any advice that can make parents aware what a danger alcohol is to children.

“Parents need educating about the risks. I know parents who’ve openly admitted buying alcohol for their children and say at least then they know what they’re drinking. But it’s what it leads on to that’s the problem.

“From a few cans of lager it can lead to half a bottle of vodka and the next thing the parents know they’re going to see their child in hospital.”

Andrew Misell, from Alcohol Concern Wales, said: “An alcohol- free childhood is the ideal for all children, as evidence shows it will delay the age of first drinking and reduce potential harms.”

See full story in the Leader

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