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Alcohol Abuse By Children

Volume 591: debated on Thursday 2 July 1998

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asked Her Majesty's Government:What evidence they have received about alcohol consumption by children between the ages of 8 and 18, and in particular about rates of increase over the last five years; and whether they have introduced any new measures to combat alcohol abuse by children since they came into office. [HL2391]

Information on alcohol consumption by children aged 8–18 is not available centrally. The following tables show the weekly alcohol consumption (in units) of school children aged 11–15 in England and people aged 16–17 in Great Britain.

Table 1: Alcohol consumption in the seven days preceding survey (in units) by children aged 11–15, 1992–1996, England
Percentages and units
under 1 unit2%2%2%
1–1.75 units2%3%3%
2–3.75 units4%4%5%
4–5.75 units2%2%3%
6–9.75 units4%4%4%
10–14.75 units1%2%2%
15 or more units2%2%4%
Mean (per person)
Mean (per drinker)


Office for National Statistics, Young teenagers and alcohol in 1996: England.

Table 2: Usual alcohol consumption level and mean weekly alcohol consumption (in units) of men and women aged 16 and 17: 1992–1996, Great Britain





under 1 unit19%15%13%
1–10 units43%41%38%
11–21 units12%14%17%
22–35 units6%6%11%
36–50 units3%1%4%
51+ units2%4%5%


under 1 unit21%22%24%
1–7 units47%38%32%
8–14 units9%13%18%
15–25 units7%7%9%
26–35 units1%3%3%
36+ units1%2%3%


Office for National Statistics, General Household Surveys 1992–1996.

(The standard definition of a unit of alcohol is that which contains 8 grammes of ethanol. One unit is the amount of alcohol contained in half a pint of normal strength beer, a small glass of wine, a single measure of spirits, or a small glass of fortified wine.)

The Government have set up a Ministerial Group to look at alcohol misuse by children. The group issued a statement last July, copies of which are available in the Library, which sets out the action which it expects the drinks industry to take in order to tackle the problem. The group will review the industry's progress in the autumn.

To reinforce the industry's efforts, the Home Office have brought into force the Confiscation of Alcohol Act and will be legislating to prevent adults buying alcohol on behalf of unsupervised children and to clarify the law on the use of children in test purchases of alcohol.

Additionally, this week my honourable friend the Minister for Public Health launched the Health Education Authority's new Parents' Guide to Drugs and Alcohol, which will be very useful in empowering parents to make an effective contribution in preventing their children from misusing alcohol and taking drugs. Copies of the guide will be placed in the Library.