A study has found that a government scheme of providing free morning-after pill at pharmacies in a bid to reduce unwanted pregnancies in teens has not only failed to live up to the expectations but also has fueled a rise in sexually transmitted diseases.
The scheme to give free emergency contraception to teenagers - including girls under 16 - in pharmacies was a key part of the last government's Teenage Pregnancy Strategy.
However, the study from Nottingham University's business school shows how the scheme has failed.
Economists Professor David Paton and Professor Sourafel Girma found that teen pregnancies among girls under-16 were the same whether or not they had access to free morning after pills from chemists.
But the rates of sexually transmitted disease were significantly higher in areas taking part in the scheme.
The team found that sexually transmitted infections increased by 12 per cent among the under 16s where the morning-after pill was available free from chemists.
"Offering the morning-after pill free of charge didn't have the intended effect of cutting teenage pregnancies, but did have the unfortunate side effect of increasing sexually transmitted infections," the Daily Mail quoted Paton as saying.
"Almost certainly young people are having more unprotected sex," he added.
Norman Wells, of the Family Education Trust, said, "International research has consistently failed to find any evidence that emergency birth control schemes achieve a reduction in teenage conception an abortion rates.
"But now we have evidence showing that not only are such schemes failing to do any good, they may in fact be doing harm."
The study is due to be published by the Journal of Health Economics.