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Underage drinking in decline

Published:  13 August, 2019

Underage drinking has fallen in two-thirds of countries where statistics are available, according to a new report.

Significant decreases have been reported in New Zealand, down 24% between 2007 and 2017, and Australia, down 10% between 2013 and 2016, the report, published by the International Alliance for Responsible Drinking, reveals.

The problem is increasing in a number of countries, including Argentina, Thailand, and Mexico.

In the UK, the Challenge 21 and Challenge 25 schemes, aimed at ensuring that retailers ask young consumers for proof they are old enough to buy alcohol, have seen some 11 million people challenged. Around 850,000 staff a year receive training through the schemes.

John Timothy, chief executive of the Portman Group, said: “This is really welcome and encouraging news. Underage drinking continues to decline across the UK, hitting record lows, with children today significantly less likely to drink alcohol or think that getting drunk is okay than in previous generations.

“Drinks producers and retailers have put a huge amount of effort into tackling underage drinking through robust ID schemes, support for local partnership initiatives and effective industry self-regulation of alcohol marketing. We are now seeing the positive impact of these measures.”

Excessive alcohol consumption ranked bottom of eight as a perceived problem in the UK for today’s teenagers, according to a survey conducted for the report by Yougov.

Only 32% of UK respondents felt it to be an issue. Too much time on social media was cited as the number-one problem by 76%, followed by mental health problems at 65% and over-use of video games at 54%.

Family members should take primary responsibility for underage drinking in the UK, according to 76% of those surveyed, compared to 44% who believe the drinks trade responsible.

In related news, Diageo has today committed to getting its message on underage drinking out to 5 million school-age children, teachers and parents by 2025.

The pledge is part of the global drinks giant’s 2025 Positive Drinking

strategy to encourage moderation and reduce alcohol-related harm.

A key part of Diageo’s programme is its theatre-in-education project Smashed, developed in partnership with Collingwood Learning, which has been seen by 700,000 young people worldwide since its launch ten years ago.

Smashed is designed to equip children and young adults with the information, skills and self-confidence to resist peer pressure and the temptations of underage drinking.

The project recently launched in the US, Colombia, Brazil, Italy and New Zealand, and further launches are planned in Mexico, Venezuela, Hungary and the Philippines. A digital version will be released in the UK this year.

Kate Gibson, Diageo’s global director of society, said: “We welcome the fact that fewer young people are drinking underage and are committed to playing our part in ensuring this downward trend continues.

“We know that knowledge is power, and that’s why we fund programmes such as Smashed, in order to find the most memorable ways of equipping young people with the tools they need as they approach adulthood.

“With our additional pledge to reach 5 million people by 2025 we are now set to help make more young people aware of the dangers of alcohol misuse than ever before.”