Latest figures show more UK teenagers are abstaining from alcohol

Latest figures show more UK teenagers are abstaining from alcohol

The Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) has criticised a new report on youth drinking, saying it fails to acknowledge a rising abstention rate among UK adolescents.

The report, released by charity Alcohol Concern earlier this week, claims cheap alcohol and the way it is promoted encourages excessive drinking among the young. But the WSTA said the study was unfair on Britain's teenagers.

“It is important to recognise that more young people are now abstaining from alcohol,” WSTA chief executive Miles Beale told just-drinks. “The proportion of 11- to 15-year-olds who had never drunk alcohol increased from 39% in 2003 to 55% in 2010, while overall alcohol consumption has fallen by 13% since 2004.”

The association also criticised the report, which surveyed 1,000 British 16- to 24-year-olds, for using old statistics that do not take into account the last five years of falling alcohol consumption rates among the UK's youths.

A WSTA spokesperson added: “The survey was new and there was focus group information that was new, but a lot of the other stuff that they've used to grab headlines are from 2007.”

Alcohol Concern said the report showed the need for minimum pricing in the UK to combat excessive drinking. The Scottish government is planning a GBP0.50 per unit minimum price, but facing a legal challenge.  Meanwhile UK Prime Minister David Cameron has announced similar plans for England and Wales

But Beale said there is no evidence to demonstrate that minimum unit pricing would work. “Instead it would punish the majority of responsible consumers with higher prices, hitting the poor hardest and do nothing to address the root causes of alcohol misuse,” he added.