TOO many young Wearsiders are ending up in hospital due to excessive drinking, experts warned today.
The region’s dedicated alcohol task force is launching a fresh drive as part of Alcohol Awareness Week to prevent young people in Sunderland and East Durham falling foul of the dangers of alcohol.
The city is above the national and regional average for alcohol-related hospital admissions and Balance – the new North East Alcohol Office – said booze advertising has a major impact on turning children to drink.
Balance director Colin Shevills said: “Our children are brought up in a world where drinking at an early age and consuming large quantities is viewed as ‘normal’ or ‘acceptable’ and alcohol advertising plays a central role in this.
“We need to stop the alcohol industry from recruiting its next generation of drinkers.”
Figures compiled by health researchers show alcohol-related hospital admissions for under-18s stands at 118.2 per 100,000 of the population in Sunderland for the past three years, higher than the regional average of 107.7.
Mr Shevills said young people were bombarded by £800million-worth of marketing a year from the alcohol industry, which played no small part in their turning to booze and suffering serious health implications as a result.
Balance’s “See What Sam Sees” campaign, launched this week, is aimed at giving adults a child’s-eye view of alcohol and how frequently it appears in their daily lives.
Mr Shevills said during the Rugby World Cup, which saw games broadcast at breakfast time, children and young people in Wearside were subjected to more than 100 alcohol adverts.
Balance wants to see alcohol advertising banned before the watershed.
A campaign film put together by the organisation follows a young boy named Sam being exposed to images and advertising for alcohol as he goes about his day-to-day routine.
The film was made as a TV ad, but ironically it cannot be broadcast due to advertising regulations.
Regulators said it would breach the Communications Act 2003 because it was encouraging visitors to sign an online petition calling on the Government to stop alcohol adverts reaching children and young people through advertising.
The Act states no such campaigning adverts may be shown on television.
Colin said: “We don’t object to the ruling in principle. However, it seems unfair that an advert which seeks to inform people and protect public health and the lives of our children is deemed unfit for broadcast. Meanwhile, the alcohol industry routinely flaunts the rules by making drinkers appear popular and attractive – something which it is not supposed to be able to do.
“From our latest perception survey we also know that 68 per cent of people in the North East agree that there should be a ban on alcohol advertising before 9pm.”
Balance is funded by the North East’s Primary Care Trusts and also receives support from the region’s police forces.
It has a full-time seconded police officer leading on its crime and disorder programme and also brings together other emergency services, alcohol support groups, treatment services, prison and probation services, councils and other health organisations.