No alcohol before age 15, says government

29 January, 2009

The government is expected to advise parents not to allow children to drink any alcohol before they are 15.

That is one of the key pieces of guidance in a consultation document launched by Children Schools & Families Secretary Ed Balls, Health Secretary Alan Johnson, and the Chief Medical Officer, Sir Liam Donaldson.

The guidance says an alcohol-free childhood is the "healthiest and best option".

It adds: "If children drink alcohol, it shouldn’t be before they reach 15 years old.

"For those aged 15 to 17 years old, all alcohol consumption should always be with the guidance of a parent or carer or in a supervised environment.

"Parents and young people should be aware that drinking, even at age 15 or older, can be hazardous to health and not drinking is the healthiest option for young people.

"If children aged 15 to 17 consume alcohol they should do so infrequently and certainly on no more than one day a week. The importance of parental influences on children’s alcohol use should be communicated to parents, carers and professionals."

Sir Liam Donaldson said: "This guidance aims to support parents, give them the confidence to set boundaries and to help them engage with young people about drinking and risks associated with it.

"More than 10,000 children end up in hospital every year due to drinking and research tells us that 15% of young people think it is normal to get drunk at least once a week.

"They are putting themselves at risk of harm to the liver, depression and damage to the developing brain."

Diageo welcomed the proposed guidance. "This is a mature response by the Government in trying to tackle a serious problem," it said.

"Young people’s drinking behaviour cannot be taken in isolation and we are also pleased to see Government’s recognition of the role of parents and carers in promoting a responsible attitude towards alcohol.

"Adults need to be able to explain to their children what a unit of alcohol is, what alcohol does to the body and why it is important to drink responsibly. Without this, we cannot expect young people to grow up with a sensible attitude towards alcohol."

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