Drug Education News

News and views from the Drug Education Forum

Guidelines say children under 15 should not drink

The Observer are reporting that the government’s guidence to parents about alcohol is about to come out and that Sir Liam Donaldson, the chief medical officer, will tell parents that children under the age of 15 must not be allowed to drink.

The recommendation is contained in the first set of guidelines Whitehall has produced to advise parents and young people about the risks of drinking alcohol. They will reopen the debate about whether parents should allow their offspring to have small amounts of alcohol in order to demystify its appeal or whether abstinence is more likely to encourage children and young people to have a responsible attitude.

The paper quotes a Liberal Democrat health spokesman, Norman Lamb, who is sceptical:

“They [the guidelines] could easily prove unrealistic, given the number of young people who drink underage, and impractical for parents to implement. They could also undermine parents’ own judgments with their children about responsible drinking and miss the real target of teenagers drinking deliberately to get drunk. If our approach is based on total abstinence then we may actually not be engaging with teenagers.”

They also gather reaction from Alcohol Concern (supportive, but pressing for higher prices and reduced availability), and Professor Ian Gilmore (supportive).

The paper isn’t sure whether Ministers will publicly sign up to the new guidance they say:

There are fears that the tough approach, which stems from his deep concern about underage drinking habits, will make Labour appear out of touch and lead to claims of “nanny-state interference”.

Looking back to an earlier interview given by David Cameron, it seems unlikely that the Conservatives will be seeing eye to eye with the CMO.  The Guardian reported an interview that Cameron did with Radio One’s Newsbeat last year, where he said that parents should introduce alcohol to children in the home and that:

 drinking is something you can do socially, and something you can do with a meal, and something that is part of life.

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