Children as young as 13 are buying alcohol illegally and drinking to excess, according to a new survey.
The survey was carried out by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation among 14,000 school pupils in England, Scotland and Wales.
It discovered that half of all 15 and 16-year-olds admitted downing five or more alcoholic drinks at a session and a quarter of all students aged 13 and 14 said they drank the same amount.
Alcohol consumption in general was found to be common and a majority of even the youngest pupils questioned admitted trying at least one alcoholic drink.
Among 11 and 12-year-olds, nine per cent of boys and five per cent of girls described themselves as "regular drinkers".
Differing attitudes to alcohol and tobacco were also discovered. Although drinking alcohol was widely accepted and even encouraged by pupils, many were against smoking and nearly half the 15 and 16-year-old boys said they had never smoked a cigarette.
However, the survey did not reveal whether children bought the illegal alcohol from an off-licence, the pub or, as the trade believes is common, from a source selling bootlegged booze.
The trade has been campaigning for a national proof-of-age card for some time in order to stamp out underage drinking and help licensees identify children who attempt to buy alcohol despite being under 18.
A cut in beer duty to tackle the problem of alcohol smuggling has also been called for. The British Institute of Innkeeping believes many underage drinkers get alcohol from illegal sources and teenage drunkenness is then blamed wrongly on licensees.
In November, licensees teamed up with MPs to introduce a standard national format for all proof-of-age cards in a bid to tackle the problem of sales to under-18s.
The PASS logo will now be introduced onto all proof-of-age cards to help stamp out forgeries.
Card schemes that qualify for the logo must include a photograph of the holder and the date of birth etched onto the card so they cannot easily be faked.
Drinks watchdog The Portman Group, which has been working on a national proof-of age card, said it did not want to comment on the Rowntree Foundation report until it had assessed its methodology.