Dr Aric Sigman has challenged the existing law which permits children to drink alcohol from the age of five in the home, despite not allowing them to purchase alcohol until the age of 18.
Writing in the British Medical Journal, Dr Sigman has called on paediatricians to take a much harder line and lobby the government against the ruling in an effort to reduce future alcohol-related health issues.
In the article, he rejects the approach taken by some parents who expose their children to alcohol at a young age in the hope it “will teach them responsible use or inoculate them against harmful drinking”.
Dr Sigman also criticises the “French family myth”, citing studies that show alcohol-related mortality in the country is higher than in the UK and the fact that the French government raised the legal drinking age to 18.
“While some may believe that the traditional French ‘Mediterranean’ approach has helped France avoid significant alcohol-related problems, WHO reported that alcohol consumption per person is higher, years of life lost is higher and alcohol-attributable fractions in overall mortality are 26 per cent higher in France than in the UK,” he writes.
He adds that Public Health France has also recently announced its “goal of denormalization … with the aim of detrimentalizing the consumption of alcohol …to reduce the morbidity and mortality associated with the consumption of alcohol in France.”
Alcohol consumption is the leading risk factor globally for premature mortality and disability among those aged 15 to 49 years, is a causal factor in more than 200 disease and injury conditions, including “staggering increases in liver disease mortality over the last 40 years, especially in the UK,” he points out.
The Independent has contacted the Department for Health and Social Care for comment.
The news follows research published in July which states that young people face higher health risks from alcohol consumption than older adults.
The research, published in The Lancet journal, found that drinking even a small shot glass of beer a day could be damaging to men under the age of 40.
Similarly, a safe daily limit of alcohol for women under the age of 39 is equivalent to two tablespoons’ worth of wine or 100ml of beer.
Senior author Dr Emmanuela Gakidou, professor of health metrics sciences at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine in the US, said: “Our message is simple: young people should not drink, but older people may benefit from drinking small amounts.
“While it may not be realistic to think young adults will abstain from drinking, we do think it’s important to communicate the latest evidence so that everyone can make informed decisions about their health.”
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