Alcohol study: Parents ‘unaware of guidance on when their teens should drink’

Chief medical officers say ‘an alcohol-free childhood is the healthiest and best option’.

Jane Kirby
Tuesday 17 May 2022 00:01
The CAP report on more than 2,000 UK adults found 58% were unaware of the guidance (Laura Lean/PA)
The CAP report on more than 2,000 UK adults found 58% were unaware of the guidance (Laura Lean/PA)

Many parents are unaware of official guidance on when their teens should have their first alcoholic drink, according to a new report.

The study, for Community Alcohol Partnerships (CAP), found that 58% of all adults were unaware of published guidance from the UK’s chief medical officers on when and where children should consume alcohol.

First published in 2009, the guidance tells parents and carers that “an alcohol-free childhood is the healthiest and best option” up to the age of 18.

However, it said that if children do drink alcohol, it should not be until at least they are 15, while those who drink between the ages of 15 and 17 should only do so in a supervised environment.

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

“If 15 to 17-year-olds do consume alcohol, they should do so infrequently and certainly on no more than one day a week.

“Young people aged 15 to 17 years should never exceed recommended adult daily limits and, on days when they drink, consumption should usually be below such levels.”

CAP, which receives funding from alcohol retailers and alcohol producers, aims to bring together retailers and licensees, trading standards, police, health services, education providers and other local stakeholders.

It wants to tackle underage drinking and associated anti-social behaviour.

The new CAP report on more than 2,000 UK adults found 58% were unaware of the guidance and only 14% knew that an alcohol-free childhood is regarded as the healthiest and best option.

Alcohol can have serious effects on developing brains and bodies

Kate Winstanley, CAP

Only 13% were aware that children should not drink before the age of 15, while only 9% knew older teens should be supervised.

Separate research carried out last year found that around half of parents (53%) have allowed or would allow their children to have an alcoholic drink before they are 18.

Kate Winstanley, director of CAP, said: “Too few parents understand that Government advice is that the children should have a mainly alcohol-free childhood.

“Alcohol can have serious effects on developing brains and bodies, as well as leaving teenagers vulnerable to unsafe situations and yet the majority of adults has allowed or would allow their children to drink alcohol before they are 18.

“The widespread lack of awareness of official guidance on children drinking should be an urgent concern for governments and the NHS, since there are currently more than 3,500 alcohol-related admissions of children to hospital in England each year.”

CAP said it was calling on the Government to launch a national campaign to raise awareness of the guidance.

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