School children in England are becoming less tolerant of drinking among their peers, according to new NHS figures, writes Adam Pescod. Just under a third (32%) of 11 to 15-year-old pupils surveyed in 2010 said it was okay for someone their own age to drink alcohol once a week, compared to nearly half (46%) of pupils surveyed in 2003. Meanwhile around one in 10 (11%) thought it was okay to get drunk once a week, compared to one in five (20%) in 2003. The findings are from; Smoking, drinking and drug use among young people in England in 2010, which surveyed 7,300 pupils in September to December 2010 and shows a continuing decline in all three behaviours. The survey results also suggest an estimated six percentage point fall between 2009 and 2010 in the percentage of pupils who had tried alcohol; from 51 to 45%. This continues the downward trend since 2003, when 61% of pupils had drunk alcohol (similar to 2001 and 2002). However, according to the NHS, the 2010 drop represents a greater fall than expected and future years’ data is needed to confirm if this is a start of a new trend. Chief executive of The NHS Information Centre Tim Straughan said: “Our figures point to an increasingly intolerant attitude among young people in today’s society when it comes to the use of cigarettes, alcohol and drugs. “As well as a reduction in the percentage who say they partake in these behaviours; a shrinking number think that drinking and drunkenness is acceptable among their peers.” Chris Sorek, chief executive of Drinkaware, commented: “These statistics are not just encouraging because they show a drop in the number of children who have tried alcohol, but also because they show a positive shift in attitudes.To see that fewer children are tolerant of their peers drinking is an early sign of a change in the nation’s drinking culture." Jeremy Beadles, chief executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA), added: "The increase in the number of young people who have never drunk alcohol and the fact that those who do drink appear to be drinking less, continues the recent trend of declining underage consumption. It is particularly welcome that young people are themselves becoming less tolerant of drinking amongst their peers. "It suggests the message about the risks of underage drinking is getting through, which is why the industry continues to invest millions of pounds in a campaign to change attitudes to alcohol misuse." Managing director of Diageo GB, Simon Litherland, said: “It is encouraging to see that young people’s drinking continues to fall in line with the adult population over the last eight years. "We continue to see that parents’ attitudes are crucial in whether young people choose to drink or not and that the attitudes of the young people themselves are becoming less tolerant towards drunkenness. "We hope to see this pattern continuing over the next few years.”