Teen drink abusers go for leading brands

TEENS abusing alcohol are more likely to buy leading brands such as Budweiser and Smirnoff rather than the cheapest or strongest drinks, according to research.

The co-author of the study, consultant psychiatrist Bobby Smyth, said the findings provide more evidence that alcohol advertising and sponsorship should be “seriously restricted” by law.

Dr Smyth, who runs the Youth Drug and Alcohol Service in Dublin, said they conducted a “snapshot” of alcohol usage among 34 adolescents aged between 14 and 18 who were entering treatment for drug or alcohol abuse.

The survey found the most popular drinks were Budweiser (50%), Smirnoff (27%) and Bulmers (15%).

“What was unexpected and most interesting was the level of brand loyalty,” said Dr Smyth.

“The stereotypical view of heavy drinkers is that they would be drinking Dutch Gold, that kind of thing, but they are drinking the more established brands.”

He said this indicated problem drinkers were not driven by the cheapest or strongest drinks.

“They are drawn to branding and promotion and that’s down to advertising. It is yet more evidence that alcohol advertising and sponsorship needs to be seriously restricted.”

He said the boys consumed 18.5 units of alcohol (seven to eight pints) the last time they drank and the girls 17.5 units.

Safe drinking limits for an entire week are 21 units for men and 14 for women.

Dr Smyth said young people attending the youth service were drinking more than three times as much alcohol as students in Britain.

The survey found that 25 out of the 34 adolescents got their alcohol through off-licences. Six got it through supermarkets and three in pubs.

“I was a bit surprised at the off-licence figure,” said Dr Smyth. “I thought there might be more from supermarkets, but the multiples seem to be relatively strict on age.”

He said a “frightening” finding was that more than 11% of respondents under 18 said their parents bought them alcohol. He said the average age at which participants first drank was 13, compared to 14-15 for the general population.

Smirnoff was the most popular drink the first time around (18%), followed by the WKD alcopop (15%) and Bulmers (12%).

The research found that beer was the favourite drink for boys and vodka for girls.

Drink choice:

First ever drink (current drink)

- Smirnoff: 18% (27%)

- WKD: 15% (3%)

- Bulmers: 12% (15%)

- Budweiser: 9% (50%)

- Huzzar Vodka: 9% (3%)

- Dutch Gold: 6% (6%)

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