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Group warns of area alcohol problem

Twice as many young people living in the North East of England receive treatment for alcohol problems compared with the rest of the country, a study has found.

Figures from health campaign group Balance show 118 of every 100,000 under 18s in the North East were treated for drink problems - double the national average.

More than 600 of the 9,450 people receiving specialist alcohol treatment in the region in 2010/11 were under the age of 18, Balance said.

The North East-based group is now calling for a review of alcohol advertising to help tackle "harmful and hazardous" levels of drinking among young people.

Balance director Colin Shevills said: "Our region is drinking too much from an early age driven by alcohol which is too affordable, too available and too heavily promoted. Although the Government's alcohol strategy aims to turn the tide against binge drinking, it is weak on a clear strategy around the marketing and promotion of alcohol. Our concern is that it will remain effectively self-regulatory. This is why we need to call on Government for change."

Melanie Souter, from young people's service Matrix, said: "Some young people who are drinking are doing so in a harmful and hazardous way with higher strength alcohol products at affordable, pocket-money prices. Alcohol advertising reinforces messages that it is either cool, or it makes you more attractive or it's something that everyone does to have a good time."

Balance has started a petition to call for a ban on alcohol advertising aimed at young people. It wants to prevent alcohol adverts being shown on television and in the cinema for under 18 certificate films, as well as on social networking sites, and through alcohol sponsorship of sporting and youth events.

Nationally, an average of 59 young people out of every 100,000 have been treated for alcohol problems, Balance said. The North West has the second highest rate with 99 under 18s out of 100,000 in treatment, followed by the East Midlands with 62 per 100,000. In London, 47 young people out of every 100,000 received alcohol treatment.

The Department of Health said it had set out "radical plans to turn the tide against irresponsible drinking" and had given local areas powers to tackle local problems.

A DH spokeswoman said: "Making sure young people understand about the harm alcohol can cause is critical. We will be launching a new way of helping get this message across later in the year."