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Drunk pupils are bunking off school to hide their hangovers
ALMOST one in three pupils playing truant from school dodge classes because they have a hangover, new figures reveal.
The damning statistic comes to light today in a report by the Edinburgh Drug and Alcohol Action Team as it emerges half of all 13-year-olds regularly drink.
The revelations come hot on the heels of news that children as young as seven are being admitted to hospital in the Capital suffering from alcohol poisoning.
Experts blame sweet-tasting, cheap drinks on the growing trend for alcohol abuse among youngsters, while calls are being made for legislation to regulate alcohol advertising which deliberately targets young drinkers.
The new figures, taken from an executive report by the Scottish Schools Adolescent Lifestyle and Substance Use Survey, show that across Scotland, 30 per cent of truancy in schools results from the use of alcohol.
Youngsters were said to be most commonly drinking beer, larger, cider, spirits or alcopops. The survey also found that shops and off-licences were the most popular source of alcohol for 15-year-olds, while among younger pupils, buying from a friend or relative is a common way to obtain booze.
Tom Wood, chairman of Edinburgh Drug and Alcohol Action Team, said renewed efforts were needed to stop youngsters getting hold of alcohol.
He said: "The report suggests that quite a number of truancy or absenteeisms from schools are caused by hangovers. This does not surprise me. It is further evidence that alcohol is becoming a real problem with younger and younger people. It used to be that they started drinking in their late teens, but this has moved to early to mid-teens now.
"The debate about the number of pubs is important but misses an important point - young people are not getting it from pubs, they are getting it from off-licenses, homes and older children.
"There will be a price to pay in terms of medical problems in later life, but alcohol also causes huge public safety problems, and children are more likely to be victims of crime or to have accidents as a result of drinking."
Judith Gillespie, development manager of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, said: "We are regularly trying to make people more aware of the problems with alcohol.
"It's often the case that people focus on the problems caused by illegal drugs when, in fact, the damage being done by alcohol is far greater. Licensing laws as they stand prohibit youngsters from buying alcohol, yet they still get it.
"Many parents do not treat the fact that their child is using alcohol in the same way as they would react to finding them doing illegal drugs.
"Both are serious problems, but at the moment alcohol is certainly the greater problem."
City Council licensing convener Phil Attridge said the council was examining new measures to tackle the problem.
He added: "Health services are preparing to deal with the massive damage sustained by the last generation of binge drinkers, who are now reaching their mid-20s and 30s.
"We cannot allow the same thing to happen to this generation of youngsters."