Twenty one children a day are taken to hospital after binge drinking and teenagers are being treated for alcohol-related liver diseases formerly seen only in the elderly, it was revealed.
The Alcohol Health Alliance coalition says drink kills more people than breast and cervical cancer and MRSA together, with rates for cirrhosis of the liver doubling since 2000.
Official figures show that 7,579 under-18s were admitted to hospital suffering from the effects of alcohol in the 12 months from April 2004.
That is 21 a day and is almost double the previous year's figure.
The alliance was launched yesterday after scientists called for 24-hour drinking to be scrapped, blaming it for a rise in violent crime and turning streets into "vomit alleys".
The coalition of 24 charities, medical bodies and patients' groups wants the Government to increase the tax on alcohol, saying a rise of 10 per cent would cut alcohol-related deaths by up to 30 per cent.
It is also demanding a cut in the drink- driving limit and a ban on alcohol advertising on TV before 9pm and in cinemas before all films except those rated for 18-year-olds.
The alliance also called for more funding for the treatment of alcoholics and more publicity about the toxic effects of heavy drinking and mental and behavioural problems caused by alcohol.
Professor Ian Gilmore, chairman of the alliance and president of the Royal College of Physicians, said: "Unless we act now to stem the rising tide of excessive drinking, particularly in the young, we will see yet more people dying prematurely in early adult life."
A BBC survey of hospital consultants found they are now treating patients in their early twenties with alcohol-related hepatitis, which formerly did not affect people until their fifties.
Women in their thirties are being treated for cirrhosis of the liver. One consultant was treating a 19-year-old woman with terminal liver disease, while another
woman died of advanced cirrhosis at 24.
Dr John O'Grady, of the British Association for the Study of the Liver, said the UK is the only developed nation still seeing a rise in liver disease.
He added: "Every year 150,000 people are admitted to hospital suffering from alcohol-related injury or disease and 22,000 die prematurely, including 5,000 from liver disease.
"Although a considerable amount of taxation is generated from alcohol, alcohol is a massive burden on society.
"This new alliance will be playing a vital part in highlighting the growing problem and hopefully, by promoting responsible drinking habits, dramatically reduce the section of society currently on course for an early grave."
Chris Russell, of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, said: "Surgeons see some of the most immediate effects of bingedrinking in a rising toll of emergency trauma injury admissions due largely to traffic accidents and alter-cations."
Yesterday the Nuffield Council on Bioethics called for increased taxes on drink, restrictions on advertising and the suspension of round-the-clock drinking.
But Jeremy Beadles, of the Wine and Spirit Association, said: "The people clamouring for an increase in taxes and regulation on the drinks industry ignore the fact that alcohol consumption is actually falling.
"Increasing the cost of alcohol will just hit the vast majority who enjoy a drink in moderation."
• Young people are boozing at home before they go out, to get a head start with their drinking.
"Pre-loading" fuelled by cheap alcohol is behind increasing drunkenness and violence among Britons aged 18 to 35. More than half say they pre-load before leaving to go drinking on the town.
Alcohol consumption on a night out was 16.3 units for women and 23.7 for men, a study by the Centre for Public Health at Liverpool John Moores University found.
But pre-loaders were four times more likely to drink at least 20 units a night and two and half times more likely to have been in a fight while out drinking.
The weekly alcohol limit is 14 units for women and 21 for men.
A unit is equal to half a pint of cider or beer, a small glass of wine or a 25ml measure of spirit.
source: The Daily Mail