Britain has reached a "worrying tipping point" where a majority of 13-year-olds have drunk alcohol, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said yesterday.
In a major speech on tackling alcohol-related crime, Ms Smith also criticised young adult binge drinkers who she said had "an appetite for destruction".
The politician revealed that the Government had commissioned KPMG to carry out a review of whether pubs, clubs, off-licences and supermarkets were abiding by the standards set by the alcohol industry.
The report - due to be completed by the end of next month - will focus on cut-price drink promotions, and Ms Smith said she had still not ruled out a change in the law to force retailers to act responsibly.
Ms Smith (Redditch) told a Home Office conference on alcohol enforcement in north London: "We have now reached a worrying tipping point where more 13-year-olds have drunk alcohol than have not.
"This is clearly a cause for concern. "There is alcohol education in schools, but we need to make sure this is as effective as possible in alerting children to the dangers of drinking."
The figure would amount to nearly 350,000 13-year-old drinkers in England and Wales alone, according to data from the Office for National Statistics, which estimated there were 690,000 children in that age group in 2006.
The Home Secretary announced a number of new measures and possible steps to crack down on crime and anti-social behaviour which is fuelled by booze.
* She would look at amending existing laws dating from 1997 which allow police to confiscate alcohol from children in public places
* Proposed extending parenting contracts to parents who allow their offspring to consume alcohol
* A scheme which sees alcohol-related offenders referred to special counsellors will also be extended to 10 more areas
* A new enforcement campaign costing £875,000 will take place during next week's half-term holidays in 175 areas of the country to confiscate alcohol
* A new multi-million pound advertising campaign later in the year would illustrate the dangers of binge drinking and seek to raise awareness of recommended alcohol intake
Deborah Cameron, chief executive of drug and alcohol charity Addaction, said: "Changes must actively involve parents. But many parents we work with are desperate to stop their kids drinking and haven't been taken seriously when they ask for help."
Wine and Spirit Trade Association chief executive Jeremy Beadles welcomed encouraging police to use existing laws .
"We in the industry are taking steps to reduce problem drinking and we are pleased to be working in partnership with Government to encourage sensible consumption of alcohol."
Shadow Home Secretary David Davis said: "This is yet another half-baked announcement designed to grab a headline."
And Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne said: "This is all populist puffery since the police already have the power to crack down on youth alcohol, and just need to use those powers more."