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21 October 2014, 06:16
Up to 225 children under the age of 10 have been treated for alcohol-related injuries or illness in Scotland in the last three years, new figures show.
NHS Ayrshire and Arran was the worst affected health board area, with 86 under-10s treated between 2011 and 2013, followed by NHS Tayside with 61 cases and NHS Forth Valley with 33.
The numbers soared in the age group 10 to 18, with a total of 4,884 young people treated for an alcohol-related condition over the same period.
NHS Ayrshire and Arran again had the highest incidence, with 1,483 cases recorded, followed by NHS Tayside with 1,385 and NHS Forth Valley with 612.
The figures were obtained by the Scottish Liberal Democrats through freedom of information legislation.
Jim Hume MSP, the party's health spokesman, said young people were "paying the price'' for a failure to tackle problem drinking.
He said: "People will be shocked to learn that more than 200 children under 10 years of age were treated for alcohol-related injury or illness. These children should be out kicking a ball about, not hitting the bottle.
"It should set alarm bells ringing across society that so many young people who should not be drinking are being treated by our NHS staff for alcohol-related conditions. Problem drinking can rip apart families and places enormous financial strain on our public services, from our hospitals to our criminal justice system.''
Mr Hume called for the Scottish Government to work with young people to address the "troubling'' figures.
He added: "If we are to change our national drinking culture young people must be given the education they need to make informed decisions about the impact alcohol misuse can have on their lives.''
A Scottish Government spokesman said: "It is regrettable that legal action has delayed the implementation of alcohol minimum unit pricing, but we are absolutely committed to its introduction.
"I believe that this policy, as part of a package of measures, will be an effective way to tackle the problems caused by Scotland's difficult relationship with alcohol.
"We are currently taking forward substance misuse education work in schools, where children and young people will learn about a variety of substances including alcohol, medicines, drugs, tobacco and solvents. They will explore the impact risk-taking behaviour has on life choices and health.
"By educating children and young people about alcohol and the impact misuse can have, we aim to prevent them making unhealthy choices.''