Parents 'more concerned by drink than drugs'

Middle class parents would be more concerned if they caught their 14-year-old child swigging vodka than puffing on a cannabis joint, according to a survey published today.

People from the top social classes are more worried about underage drinking than the chances of their teenage youngsters using the illegal drug. And among the population as a whole, opinion is evenly divided between the two.

The survey for the drinks industry-sponsored body the Portman Group found that 43% of people in the AB social classes would be more worried if they found their 14-year-old offspring drinking from a bottle of spirits than smoking a joint.

Young people were even more liberal when it came to soft drugs, with 45% saying the prospect of a teenage child downing spirits was worse than catching them smoking cannabis.

As a whole, people in the UK are completely split on what would be more worrying, with 38% saying cannabis was more worrying and the same proportion more concerned about alcohol.

One in four 15-year-olds smokes cannabis or has tried the drug and 2.7 million Britons are regular users, research has found.

Last year Tony Blair's 16-year-old son Euan was arrested for being drunk and incapable, while in 1997 Home Secretary Jack Straw's son William was cautioned for possession of cannabis.

Several members of the shadow cabinet have admitted to smoking the drug in their youth.

But the Government has insisted that it will not legalise the drug, despite a recent relaxation of laws in other countries such as Belgium.

Other findings from the survey of more than 1,500 adults in the UK found that more than three quarters of people believe their drinking habits have no adverse effect on their health.

And while only 7% admit to drinking every day, 63% believe binge drinking is a big problem in Britain today.

Just under half of people say they enjoy a tipple at least once a week and one in five claim only to drink on special occasions, with 3% never having touched a drop of alcohol in their lives.

But other studies have shown that 15% of women and 27% of men drink more than the recommended levels of alcohol.

Jean Coussins, director of the Portman Group, presented the report Alcohol and Society to Health Minister Gisela Stuart today.

Ms Coussins said: "The key message which emerges from this survey is that by and large the British public like a drink but don't like drunks.

"It is vital that the Government, the industry and the public health and education authorities all pull together on a common agenda to tackle alcohol misuse."

The Government is drawing up an Alcohol Misuse Strategy to reduce drinking levels.

No comments have so far been submitted. Why not be the first to send us your thoughts, or debate this issue live on our message boards.

We are no longer accepting comments on this article.

Who is this week's top commenter? Find out now