Some UK children as young as 12 years old reported being heavy alcohol drinkers, claiming to quaff at least 28 units a week on a recent Schools Health Education Unit (SHEU) survey, while government health guidelines allow grown men 21.
According to the BBC and the Daily Star, the independent non-profit educational organization SHEU surveyed more than 83, 000 British students aged 10 to 15 in 1,100 primary schools, asking the kids over 100 questions about their day to day health-related behaviors, and found:
Describing their alcohol drinking over the past week, 11 percent of the children aged 14 and 15 admitted to downing more than ten alcoholic drinks during that period; 20 percent claimed they drank at least one pint of cider; nearly a third responded they drank at least one pint of beer; and boys favored beer, lager and cider, while girls more often chose wine and spirits.
Dr. David Regis from SHUE told the BBC the survey showed good and bad news:
"We've got an increasing number of pupils who are saying as far as they're concerned, alcohol is not for them at all, so the number of teetotallers has been going up in recent years, but we've also seen those youngsters that do drink maybe more likely than ever to go over the top."
A Department of Health spokesman responded that children under 15 should not be drinking any alcohol, and stated its drug strategy for young people included alcohol misuse prevention measures:
"We are... doubling the maximum fine for under-age alcohol sales to £20,000 and extending the period of voluntary closure that can be given as an alternative to prosecution for persistent under-age selling from 48 hours to two weeks."
The SHEU study also found significant numbers of girls were skipping meals in efforts to attain "ideal" figures; kids were eating fewer fresh fruits and vegetables as they grew older; and over half of the females 14 and 15 years old were taking painkillers every day.