Fresh calls are being made to protect young teenagers from the dangers of alcohol.
Balance, the north east alcohol office, says more should be done after a new study showed around 5,700 15-year-olds in the region had been drunk in the last four weeks.
A study by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC), on behalf of the Department of Health, showed that 70 per cent of 15-year-olds have had an alcoholic drink – the second highest region in England.
It also revealed that nine per cent of 15-year-olds drink at least once a week – the highest region in England – while 28 per cent had been drunk in the last four weeks.
Colin Shevills, director of Balance, said: “These figures are clearly worrying.
“The Chief Medical Officer clearly states that the best advice is for young people to have an alcohol-free childhood.
“Alcohol makes children and young people vulnerable by encouraging poor decisions which they can later regret.
“It also exposes them to a range of long-term health risks linked to more than 60 medical conditions, including seven different types of cancer.
“Someone who begins drinking as a young teen is four times more likely to develop alcohol dependence than someone who waits until adulthood to use alcohol, so it’s vitally important that something is done to try and reduce the number of young people turning to alcohol.
“Young people are bombarded with positive messages about drinking from the alcohol industry.
“Alcohol continues to be sold at pocket money prices and is available 24/7. A package of evidence-based measures that tackle the price, promotion and availability of alcohol is needed if we are to protect younger generations from the dangers of alcohol.”