UK Government

Department of Health (National): Parents back alcohol free childhood

Press Release   •   Dec 17, 2009 11:17 GMT

Chief Medical Officer publishes final guidance on alcohol and children

The Chief Medical Officer’s guidance for parents, children and young people is based on the most comprehensive ever review of the scientific evidence and follows an extensive public consultation.

Parents have backed the Chief Medical Officer’s advice that children should avoid alcohol completely before the age of 15.

Following publication of draft guidance in January this year, parents were asked what they thought. Parents from across the country commented on the guidance, with the majority welcoming its focus on parental responsibility and the clear advice on the health effects and risks of children drinking alcohol.

The final five-point guidance published today advises:

1. an alcohol-free childhood is the healthiest and best option - if children drink alcohol, it shouldn't be before they reach 15 years old;

2. if young people aged 15 - 17 years old drink alcohol, it should always be with the guidance of a parent or carer or in a supervised environment;

3. 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 - 17 drink alcohol they should do so infrequently and certainly on no more than one day a week. They should never drink more than the adult daily limits recommended by the NHS;

4. the importance of parental influences on children's alcohol use should be communicated to parents, carers and professionals. Parents and carers need advice on how to respond to alcohol use and misuse by children; and

5. support services must be available for children and young people who have alcohol-related problems and their parents.

The final guidance is the first time advice on children and alcohol has been set out for parents and will be the basis of a new national campaign on alcohol and children to be launched by the Department for Children School’s and Families in the new year.  The campaign will provide support and advice to parents and young people on the effects and harms of alcohol.

Professor Sir Liam Donaldson, the Chief Medical Officer for England said:

“Across England, half a million children between the ages of 11 and 15 years will have been drunk in the past four weeks.

“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 overwhelmingly positive response to the guidance has shown that this is a major issue for parents and carers. They want more information to support them in talking to their children about alcohol and helping them to grow up as responsible drinkers.”

Notes to editors

For media enquiries only please contact the Department of Health news desk on 020 7210 5221.

The guidance can be viewed athttp://www.dh.gov.uk/en/Aboutus/MinistersandDepartmentLeaders/ChiefMedicalOfficer/index.htm

The Chief Medical Officer published draft guidance on the consumption of alcohol by children and young people on 29th January 2009.

Current medical evidence shows that adult men should not regularly drink more than three to four units a day and adult women not more than two to three. "Regularly" means drinking every day or most days of the week.

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