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Sun, sea and unprotected sex

Seaside resorts in Britain have the highest rates of teenage pregnancy because of easy access to alcohol, poor sex education and lack of services for youngsters, say academics.

A Department for Education and Skills study says the party atmosphere of tourist spots encourages casual sex among young people, leading to a high rate of teenage pregnancies in resort towns.

Blackpool has one of the highest rates in England. Provisional estimates for 2002 are 74.8 conceptions per 1,000 girls aged 15 to 17, compared to the national average of 42.6.

Hastings' teenage pregnancy rate is 59.8 per 1,000, with Brighton and Hove at 46.2, Southend at 50.4 and Torbay at 48.7.

The findings come from a two-year study by the universities of Hull, Liverpool and Brighton. Gary Craig, professor of social justice at Hull, said: "Clubs, discos and pubs make money from the sale of alcohol and obviously need to maximise the number of people coming through their doors.

"Our research shows these places target young girls, allowing them free entry with no questions asked and they become a bit of a honeytrap for older men, especially middle-aged men who have been through a relationship breakdown.

"A girl gets drunk, she's up for a good time and the transient nature of the relationship means afterwards she is left holding the baby."

He added: "Planning applications for pubs and clubs should be scrutinised before being given the go-ahead. Policy-makers should take into consideration how these places affect young people.

"We need more policing of underage drinking, more spot checks and more importantly, sexual health education.

"Teachers need to be trained so that they feel comfortable talking about sex and we need services to be more accessible for youngsters. We were asked to look into why teenage pregnancies are so high in seaside towns, now we know."

A spokesperson for the Government said: "We welcome the report which has highlighted possible risk factors at seaside resorts. It will now be distributed to local authorities to help with implementation of strategies and will help to form national policy developments."

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