UK: Government warns parents on underage drinking
Children under the age of 15 should never be given alcohol and and teenagers under 18 should be supervised to help curb a culture of excess drinking in the UK, according to new Government advice.
Official guidance published today (17 December) states that parents who give their children watered-down wine in the hope of introducing them to sensible drinking habits are "misguided".
It is the first time Government advice on children and alcohol has been set out for parents and a national campaign on alcohol and children will be launched in early 2010.
"Across England, half a million children between the ages of 11 and 15 years will have been drunk in the past four weeks," said Government chief medical officer Sir Liam Donaldson.
"The science is clear. Drinking particularly at a young age, a lack of parental supervision, exposing children to drink-fuelled events and failing to engage with them as they grow up are the root causes from which our country's serious alcohol problem has developed."
The guidelines were welcomed by the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA), which said the role of parents is "hugely important" in instilling a responsible attitude in alcohol.
"Retailers are taking every step possible to prevent underage sales. The Challenge 25 scheme, which requires anyone who looks under 25, to present proof of age if they wish to purchase alcohol, is driving down underage sales," said Jeremy Beadles, chief executives of the WSTA.
The guidance for parents, children and young people is based on a Government review of scientific evidence and follows an extensive public consultation and draft guidance published in January this year.
"The overwhelmingly positive response to the guidance has shown that this is a major issue for parents and carers," Donaldson said.
While under-15s should be given no alcohol, those aged between 15 and 17 should only do so when supervised, the guidance says. The UK minimum legal drinking age is 18.
The Department of Health said it is keen to point out the importance of parental influences on children's alcohol use and that parents and carers need advice on how to respond to alcohol use and misuse by children.
Donaldson also called for support services to be available for children and young people who have alcohol-related problems and their parents.
Separately, drinks industry leaders are preparing for a fresh call for minimum pricing on drinks in January.
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