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'Stark' warnings over level of youth drinking

One-third of 18 to 24-year-olds are downing four-and-a-half pints or one-and-a-quarter bottles of wine on a night out.

The extent of binge drinking among this age group was described as "stark" by Junior Health Minister Roisin Shortall, who has been forced to water down plans to phase out alcohol sponsorship of sports and cultural events by 2016.

Many of the nation's drinking patterns remain at damaging levels, with one in five drinkers saying they suffered harm in the previous year as a result of their alcohol use.

Men are twice as likely as women to report drink-related problems with health, work or friendship, a cross-border survey revealed.

It found 73pc of 18 to 24-year-olds consumed at least five standard drinks on a social occasion. Those aged 50-64 years were most likely to have a drink twice a week.

The survey of 15 to 64-year-olds was carried out by the National Advisory Committee on Drugs during late 2010 and early 2011 as the recession worsened.

• Harm to health was reported by 13pc of drinkers and this rose to 24pc among 18 to 24-year-olds.

• Nearly one in three women was more likely than a man to have one to two standard drinks on a night out, remaining in low risk limits.

• The percentage of non-drinkers had gone down from 19pc to 13pc.

��� Women were more likely than men to be non-drinkers. And 19pc of 50 to 64-year-olds were abstainers compared to 7pc of 18-24 year olds.

• Single people were more likely to consume alcohol in a harmful way compared to married or separated drinkers.

• Women were more likely than men to report having used alcohol and either anti-depressants or sedatives.

Ms Shortall's climbdown on the 2016 deadline to outlaw sponsorship follows opposition to the speed of the move by colleagues, including Tourism Minister Leo Varadkar and Junior Minister for Tourism and Sport Michael Ring, who both voiced fears about its impact on vital funding.

The phasing out of the sponsorship "over a reasonable period of time" is now under discussion, she said at the launch.

Behaviour

The easing of the timescale is in recognition of the significant debts faced by sporting organisations, she added.

There is more agreement on the banning of cheap alcohol by introducing a minimum price and work is under way to withstand an expected drinks industry challenge.

"Instances involving excessive consumption of alcohol over the summer period, leading to anti-social behaviour and violence at large public events, are among the latest overt illustrations of the problem," she said.

"The subsequent public reaction to such events may indicate that such blatant public drunkenness and negative behaviour can no longer be tolerated."

She expects to bring a memo on the proposals to Government within weeks.

Irish Independent