New campaign seeks to tackle underage drinking in Highlands

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A new campaign seeks to tackle underage drinking in the Highlands.

The region's number of under 15s taking alcohol remains above the national average, according to the Highland Alcohol and Drugs Partnership.

Its campaign Meet the MacPhersons draws on evidence gathered from 200 young people and 20 parents.

They were asked for their experiences of the dilemmas faced by children, teenagers and parents in relation to alcohol.

Almost three quarters of young people in the Highlands have drunk alcohol by the time they turn 15, according to the partnership, whose members include NHS Highland.

The partnership said there has been a 10% reduction in underage drinking in the region since 2010, but it remained above the national average.

'Chronic diseases'

Deborah Stewart, co-ordinator for Highland Alcohol and Drugs Partnership, said families have an important part to play in tackling underage drinking.

She said: "Underage drinking remains a concern as it contributes to a range of negative health and social outcomes.

"There is also evidence that shows early alcohol use is associated with increased risk of dependency in adulthood and chronic diseases associated with excessive drinking in adults.

"By reducing underage drinking we can reduce the risk of alcohol problems developing in adulthood and families can play a part in that by modelling sensible drinking, communicating risks associated with drinking and participating in positive activities. That's why we would like families to Meet the MacPhersons."

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image captionNHS Highland's public health chief has raised concerns about children's exposure to irresponsible drinking

Last month, NHS Highland's director of public health said children as young as three can recognise the smell associated with alcohol.

Dr Hugo van Woerden said he recognised that responsible drinking was "a normal part of a healthy society".

But he has raised concerns about levels of alcohol abuse and children's exposure to it.

He said in the health board's area 9.4% of men and 7.2% of women were classed as problem drinkers.

His report mentions "children as young as three can recognise the smell associated with alcoholic drinks".

Dr van Woerden also said there had been a rise in alcohol intake by women aged 16-24.

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