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Germany

Alcohol abuse among German youths more than sobering

Recent cases of teen and even child alcohol binges are indications of increasing abuse by younger Germans, as an alarming new report published by a German health insurance company reveals.

A young man drinks from a beer glass

Binge drinking among youths in Germany appears to be on the rise

Just last week, three children aged 11, 12 and 13 were found passed out at a playground in the city of Paderborn after drinking vodka. The most recent cases of alcohol abuse by minors highlight a steady and alarming increase of binge drinking by German youths.

"We are observing with concern that people being brought into hospital with suspected alcohol poisoning are getting younger and younger. Even kids under the age of 15 are coming to hospitals completely drunk," Norbert Klusen, CEO of the TK health insurance company, told this weekend's edition of the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper.

TK statistics revealed that between 2007 and 2008 considerably more children under the age of 15 had been taken to hospital because of presumed alcohol poisoning. If extrapolated to all children in that age group this would add up to nearly 2,400 cases of alcohol abuse.

The figures for adolescents under the age of 18 were equally sobering.

A hand reaches to take an alcopop from a supermarket shelf

When consumed in excess, alcopops can be just as harmful as other alcoholic drinks

According to TK's figures, the number of hospitalizations rose by 174 to 1,765 year-on-year. If projected to all youths in that age bracket, this adds up to some 20,000 so-called "coma bingers."

Klusen warned that supermarkets, gas stations and restaurant and pub owners had to take on more responsibility in checking the ages of their customers. He said it was a problem "if a bottle of beer, a glass of wine and a cigarette while watching television with the family were always present."

The health expert of the Social Democrats (SPD), Karl Lauterbach, demanded in the same newspaper that alcohol sales laws be tightened. He said that all adolescents who want to purchase alcohol be required to show proper proof of age. Lauterbach also called for stiffer penalties for retailers and restaurant owners who illegally sell alcohol to minors.

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