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Under-15s should not drink alcohol.

Friday, December 18th, 2009 Under-15s should not drink alcohol.

Chief medical officer, Sir Liam Donaldson, has urged parents to reframe from giving their children any alcohol, especially over the Christmas period.

Studies show that many parents give their children diluted wine in order to introduce them to sensible drinking habits, however Sir Liam Donaldson has recommended that no person under the age of 15 should drink at all.

Several studies have shown that alcohol can be damaging to young people, but as yet there have been no guideline for parents. Sir Ian recommends that parents should set a good example by allowing their children to consume alcohol when under their supervision.

He said: “It is a major public health problem. Alcohol has a ruinous effect on the foundations of adult life. We see the tyranny of alcohol in our towns and city centres and too often childhood is robbed of its clear-eyed innocence and replaced with a befuddled futility that comes with the availability of dirt-cheap alcohol,”

Sir Ian has called for a minimum price on alcohol to be introduced on several occasions, however the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, has ruled out any such move. Sir Ian believes that setting a minimum price on alcohol would deter young people and heavy drinkers without having much of an impact on the average or moderate drinkers.

The chief medical officer said that parents are the most influential role models to children, which is a message that will be broadcast during a new year advertising campaign by the Department for Children, Schools and Families.

Sir Ian said there is no evidence to support the common conception that children are able to handle alcohol if they are introduced to it at an early age.

He said: “The idea that you give children alcohol early on and they will be OK is not supported by evidence at all. The earlier they are introduced to alcohol the more they get a taste for it and are likely to end up as heavily drinking adults or binge drinking in their childhood.”

Around half a million 11 to 15 year-olds will have been drunk in the past months and every week 11 to 17 year-olds drink the equivalent of 2 million bottles of wine or 9 million bottles of beer. In addition to this, 7,600 11 to 17 year-olds end up in hospital because of alcohol every year.

Don Shenker, chief executive of Alcohol Concern, said: “The easy availability of alcohol at pocket-money prices is far more important, and the government should consider getting tough on cheap sales to help tackle underage drinking,”, but said that young people are influenced by factors other than their parents.

Jeremy Beadles, chief executive of The Wine and Spirit Trade Association, stressed that retailers were doing their best to prevent the sale of alcohol to underage consumers.

He said: The chief medical officer’s views on minimum pricing are well known, but it would be totally wrong to suggest that pricing be used to address underage drinking when it is illegal for someone under 18 to purchase and possess alcohol.”

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