More and more college-going girls turn to the morning-after pill to avert pregnancy. They seem to avoid condoms and other sure-fire safe sex devices.
A survey of 500 students found nearly half had used the pill. The study was carried out among students in their late teens and early 20s at Kingston University in South-West London.
AdvertisementA fifth of those polled by the student newspaper The River said they had had more than one sexual partner in a week and one in ten of the men claimed to have slept with at least two women in one day.
A third said they did not regularly use condoms with new sexual partners, leaving them at risk of sexually transmitted infections as well as unplanned pregnancies.
Seven in ten of those who took the pill did so because they hadn't used any other form of precaution.
The findings will fuel worries that growing numbers of women are relying on the drug to prevent pregnancy, rather than using it as back-up contraception when their regular method fails.
It comes as concern mounts about the increasing availability of the drug.
It was advertised on TV for the first time last month and is on sale online as well as over the counter at pharmacies.
Norman Wells, of the campaign group Family and Youth Concern, said the morning-after pill also encouraged promiscuity. 'When the morning-after pill was first approved for use in the UK, assurances were given that it would be used only in exceptional circumstances and would remain a prescription-only drug under the control of doctors,' he said.
'Marketing it as a "just in case" drug and making it as readily available as aspirin is proving to be a dangerous experiment with unknown long-term consequences.
'The morning-after pill is also having a damaging social effect by lulling young women into a false sense of security, encouraging a more casual attitude to sex, and exposing them to increased risk of sexually transmitted infections.'
The Marie Stopes International chain of family-planning clinics said the morning-after pill was designed for occasional use only.
Spokesman Emily James said: 'Emergency contraception should do what it says on the tin. It is important it doesn't replace regular contraception methods.'
Rebecca Findlay of the FPA, formerly the Family Planning Association, advised young women to keep a packet of the morning-after pill on stand-by at home.
'But it's for emergency, not long-term use,' she stressed.