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Children Should Not Drink Until Age 15 To Aid Brain Development

Posted Feb 03 2009 12:10am

Parents were advised by the Government today that children should live an alcohol-free childhood.

Sir Liam Donaldson, the Chief Medical Officer, recommends that parents do not allow their children to consume alcohol at all - including having a drink at home - until they have reached at least 15.

The advice comes in stark contrast to the current law - at the moment in the UK it may surprise some parents to know that the legal drinking age for a child is five.

As Sir Liam was establishing his recommended guidelines on drinking, findings were revealed that although the number of children drinking is decreasing, those who do drink at an earlier age are more likely to be “binge drinking”.

Under Sir Liam’s guidelines, a tee-total childhood is considered essential to aid a child’s brain development.

These guidelines will be produced in a leaflet form to provide information and advice. However, the Government are aware that they could be accused of turning into a “nanny state” and would thus not have the power to pass a law on the recommendation. Ministers will therefore discuss the proposal before the leaflet is published and distributed.

The Liberal Democrats’ health spokesman, Norman Lamb, said,  “The danger with the Chief Medical Officer’s guidelines is that they fly so much in the face of reality that one questions whether they will be taken seriously.

They could easily prove unrealistic, given the number of people who drink under age, and impractical for parents to implement.”

Conversely, there are opposing groups in the UK, who feel strongly that we should follow in the footsteps of some European countries, where small, diluted amounts of alcohol are part of children’s daily lives, in order to eliminate the idea that drinking is something incredible that only adults can do.

Margaret Morrissey, the spokeswoman for the Parents Outloud pressure group, agreed wholeheartedly with the guidelines, “I feel they shouldn’t be drinking until that age,” she said.

“The dilemma is that – unless you introduce them slowly to drinking – when they do start at 15 or 16 they go absolutely ballistic – so maybe there is something to be said for what happens in France where you can get diluted wine for youngsters.

“However, if the Government is really serious about it, it should ban alcohol from supermarkets and go back to just having it available from off-licences which can be more regulated.”

The guidelines being put together by Sir Liam come after a youth alcohol action plan was created by the Government whic advises that children who consume too much alcohol are a higher chance of becoming involved in drugs and truanting from school. A survey found that of the children who had been excluded from school, 45 per cent had consumed alcohol in the last week, compared to just 21 per cent of those kids who had never been excluded.

Recent statistics reveal that the amount of children from age 11 to 15 who confirmed they had never tasted alcohol had gone up from 38 per cent to 46 per cent since 2001. However, in those who did admit to drinking underage, drank an average of 11 units per week, compared to just five units in 2001.

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