Press releases

Fewer teenagers regularly drink alcohol - but trends are alarming among those who do!

The number of teenagers who report that they regularly drink alcohol has fallen - but experts warn of worrying trends among those who do.

A new survey of 13,000 young people, aged 14 to 17 - carried out by local authority trading standards services in the North West of England - showed the number of teenagers drinking alcohol at least once a week has dropped from 50% in 2005 to 38% in 2009.

However, the survey, published at the Trading Standards Institute's (TSI) annual Consumer Affairs and Trading Standards Annual Conference in Brighton, revealed some alarming habits, with one in four of those who do drink consuming more than 20 units a week.

Other worrying trends highlighted include:

  • 1 in 4 of teenagers surveyed regularly binge drink (consuming five drinks at least once a week)
  • 1 in 20 typically drink alone
  • 1 in 6 regretted having sex after drinking
  • 1 in 2 teenagers drink to get drunk

The new survey, commissioned by Trading Standards North West, is a repeat of similar ones carried out in 2005 and 2007.

Ron Gainsford, chief executive of TSI, said: 'We welcome this broad ranging survey, which provides valuable information for trading standards and other professionals concerned with the safety of our communities.

'It is encouraging that fewer teenagers in the North West are drinking weekly - but the response that a quarter are consuming more than 20 units a week, which is very close to the limit recommended for adult men, is alarming for these young people's own health and for the wider damage on local communities that alcohol abuse inflicts.

'TSI congratulates Trading Standards North West for carrying out this initiative and we encourage other services around the country to seek funding for similar exercises in their areas.'

The survey also showed the use of fake ID from the Internet has dropped - from 42% in 2007 to 32% in 2009 - but children report that they are now more likely to just use an older sibling's ID (up from 16% to 25%). This highlights the need for shops to be vigilant in ID checks, especially as more than half of children reported that they have never been asked for ID.

Responses from the young people who took part highlighted that Magners and Strongbow Cider have increased significantly in popularity among teenagers - but Smirnoff Ice and WKD remain their favourite drinks.

Richard Lindley, Chair of the Trading Standards North West Under Age Sales Strategy Group, said: 'The figures appear to substantiate that the underage sales operations by Trading Standards at retail premises are working. There has been a significant drop since 2007 of young people purchasing alcohol from shops and off-licences. It is important, however, that operations aimed at off-licences and newsagents continue, as a priority, to further the decline of the availability of alcohol to young people'

Mr Lindley added: 'It is worrying that the same products are highlighted year after year as being popular among young people.  Whilst we can take enforcement action against the sellers, the firms behind the products have to think more carefully about their marketing strategies.'

Trading Standards North West will now be writing to the firms behind the most popular drinks for children in the survey, seeking their clarification of plans for action to reduce their appeal to young people.

Phil Woolas MP, Regional Minister for the North West said: 'Although the number of our teenagers regularly drinking alcohol has fallen since the last survey was carried out, the amount that some of
them are drinking is worrying. The Government's Youth Action Plan set out a range of commitments including stronger powers to tackle unsupervised drinking in public places and also stressed the important
role that the alcohol industry has to play in refusing to sell it to under 18s and marketing their products responsibly.

Mr Woolas added: 'I congratulate the work that Trading Standards North West is doing to crack down on underage sales.  The 14-17 year olds who are regularly drinking far too much are at real risk of major health problems, but we all need to be aware of the extent of the problem and help them tackle their drinking problems before it's too late.'

Dr Ruth Hussey, Regional Director of Public Health, said: ''The amount of alcohol consumed by some teenagers is of great concern. Not only does it pose a significant threat to their health, it puts them at greater risk of violence and unplanned pregnancy.'

Garry Shewan, Assistant Chief Constable with Greater Manchester Police, who speaks on behalf of NW Police Forces said: 'Whilst the fall in the number of young people drinking alcohol shows that we are taking the right actions we can not be complacent.  More and more young people are accessing alcohol from their homes and from older friends. We must do more to protect young people and to intervene whenever we see young people misusing alcohol, otherwise they will run a high risk of becoming involved in violence and crime.'

Notes for Editors

 Full Report (PDF 501KB) | Executive Summary (PDF 176KB)

For further information or to arrange an interview please contact the Trading Standards Institute press office by phone on 0845 608 9430 or by e-mail on pressoffice@tsi.org.uk

There will be two interview/photo opportunities for broadcast and print media on Wednesday 1st July as follows:

  1. Jim Potts, chief trading standards officer for Lancashire County Council will be available to brief media and for photographs at 12.30pm on Wednesday 1 July 2009 with examples of the most popular teenage drinks and some teenagers.  This will take place in the press office at the Trading Standards Institute (TSI) annual Consumer Affairs and Trading Standards Annual Conference at the Brighton Centre.
  2. A selection of young people, Trading Standards & Police together with examples of the most popular brands will be available for filming/photography at Royton Park in Royton, Oldham - one of the areas in the North West with one of the highest rates of under age drinking in open spaces. - The photo shoot/filming opportunity will be at 4pm on Wednesday 1 July 2009. Tony Allen, chief trading standards officer for Oldham Council and a member of the Trading Standards North West Under Age Sales Strategy Group will be available to brief media. To participate in this, please contact the press office at Oldham Council on 0161 770 4709.
  3. Further interview opportunities will be made available from representatives of the police, trading standards, health services and Government depending upon availability and locations. Please contact the press office at Oldham Council on 0161 770 4709.
  4. Many of the local trading standards departments in the North West will also be publishing news releases and may be providing photo/filming opportunities for local media. If you wish to cover these, please liaise with the press office from your local Council.

Copies of the full survey are available for the media from the TSI Press Office on 0845 608 9430 and from the press office at Oldham Council (who are coordinating responses for the North West) on 0161 770 4709.

The survey, carried out for TSNW by Ci Research of Wilmslow, Cheshire, revealed that:

  • The percentage of 14-17 year olds who claimed that they never drink is consistent with the previous survey (18% in 2009, compared to 17% in 2007). However the percentage of respondents from the same age group claiming to drink alcohol once a week or more has fallen for the second consecutive period. Fifty per cent claimed to drink at least once a week in 2005, falling to 44% in 2007, and to 38% in 2009
  • Alcohol consumption amongst males was more polarised, with higher percentages than females claiming that they never drink (22% compared to 14% in 2007) and drink at least once a week (39%, compared to 36% in 2007)
  • The proportion of respondents claiming to regularly binge drink fell by 3% to 26% in 2009
  • A higher percentage of males (33%) than females (26%) claimed that they never binge drink
  • In 2009, there was an increase in the percentage of young people claiming to drink at their friends' houses and a fall in the percentage claiming to drink outside (30%, compared to 37% in 2007) and in pubs / clubs (28%, compared to 33% in 2007)
  • Where drinking outside, the majority (70%) claim to drink in groups of six or more, although this percentage is lower than in 2007 (80%)
  • Amongst the 14-17 year olds that do drink alcohol, the percentage claiming to consume less than 10 units a week has fallen from 58% in 2007 to 49% in the latest survey. This corresponds to an increase in the percentage of young people claiming to drink more than 20 units per week (25%, compared to 19% in 2007)
  • WKD and Smirnoff remained the most popular brands for young people, with Strongbow and Magners showing an increase in popularity amongst underage drinkers
  • As in 2007, the majority of 14-17 year olds claimed to obtain their alcohol from family and friends over 18 (54%) and their parents / guardians (49%)
  • Lower percentages of underage drinkers claimed to be buying their alcohol from pubs / nightclubs (16%, compared to 19% in 2007), off licences (14%, compared to. 15% in 2007) and through adults outside shops (13%, compared to 16% in 2007)
  • There was a slight fall in the percentage of respondents claiming to purchase alcohol themselves (26%, compared to 28% in 2007), although the figure has increased amongst 14 year olds (17%, compared to 14% in 2007)
  • Consistent with 2007, males (60%) were more likely to be asked for ID than females (50%)
  • A similar percentage of young people to 2007 claimed to have fake ID (7%). This was more prevalent amongst 17 years olds (44%)
  • Compared to the previous survey, young people were less likely to be sourcing fake ID via the Internet (32%, compared to 42% in 2007), and more likely to be using an elder sibling's ID (25%, compared to 16%)

The Consumer Affairs and Trading Standards Conference 2009

The national Consumer Affairs and Trading Standards Conference 2009, organised by the Trading Standards Institute (TSI) is a 'must' for consumer journalists!

The TSI-hosted annual Conference and Exhibition is the leading consumer affairs and trading standards event in Europe.

The 2009 Conference is being held at the Brighton Centre from Tuesday 30 June to Thursday 02 July. The conference press office will be open from 9am on Monday 29 June (the day before the event starts) until 5pm on Thursday 02 July.

Journalists and photographers are welcome to attend but should contact the press office on 0845 608 9430 to arrange passes.

The conference is hosted by TSI chairman Peter Denard and the main sponsor is the British Toy and Hobby Association.

Some 3,000 people are attending the conference, including representatives from local and central government and those interested in fair trading, representatives of business and commerce, together with consumer organisations. This makes it an ideal place for consumer affairs journalists to mingle and make contacts!

Trading Standards Institute

The Trading Standards Institute has represented the interests of Trading Standards professionals for 120 years. We have a long and proud history of ensuring that the views of our members are well represented at the highest level of government, both nationally and internationally.

Our aim is to promote excellence and enhance the professionalism of our members in support of empowering and informing consumers, encouraging and working with honest businesses, targeting rogue traders and rogue trading practices and contributing to the health, welfare and wellbeing of citizens and communities.

TSI members are engaged in delivering frontline trading standards services in local authorities in response to 2 million consumer and business complaints and enquiries each year. They also support the delivery of new initiatives such as Consumer Direct, providing first point of contact practical consumer advice.

They also work in the business, consumer and central government sectors in promoting and influencing the safety, prosperity and enhancement of individuals and markets with a dependency on effective and professional trading standards contributions and interventions.