A survey of 25,000 Australian high school secondary students has found that alcoholic drinking among younger teens has dropped. However, those considered older teens continued to consume alcohol in much riskier levels.
A survey of 25,000 Australian high school secondary students has found that alcoholic drinking among younger teens has dropped. However, those considered older teens continued to consume alcohol in much riskier levels.

Prime Minister David Cameron will launch an attack on the huge cost of alcohol abuse on the NHS.

In the build-up to the government launching its new alcohol strategy, Cameron will announce that binge-drinking costs the NHS £2.7bn a year, £1bn of it on A&E.

During a visit to a hospital in the Northeast, Cameron will signal the need for supermarkets, pubs and clubs to work with the government to make responsible drinking "a reality and not just a slogan".

"Every night, in town centres, hospitals and police stations across the country, people have to cope with the consequences of alcohol abuse. And the problem is getting worse," he will say.

"Over the last decade we have seen a frightening growth in the number of people - many underage - who think it's acceptable for people to get drunk in public in ways that wreck lives, spread fear, and increase crime.

"This is one of the scandals of our society and I am determined to deal with it. As figures show, the NHS is having to pick an ever-growing bill. That's money we have to spend because of the reckless behaviour of an irresponsible minority."

Cameron will add that the wider cost of binge-drinking to society is between £17bn and £22bn per annum, while the number of patients suffering from acute intoxication stands at 18,500 - more than double the total in 2002/03.

One suggestion, made by local authorities, has been a minimum alcohol price, aiming to dissuade consumers from heavy drinking. Public health minister Ann Milton has raised concerns that such a move would contravene European free trade legislation.

"We have to be very careful about punishing the majority because of the minority," she said.