UK Government Consults Health Professionals On Youth Alcohol Consumption Guidance

February 1, 2009 at 11:00 am Leave a comment

The government is giving key stakeholders and partners, including health professionals, the opportunity to shape guidance published this month on alcohol consumption, for parents of under 18s.

The guidance, published on 29th January by the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) will empower parents and carers to educate their children and make sensible choices about consumption. The consultation will engage with the people who can make a difference including, health professionals, teachers, youth workers, peer educators and GPs, on the guidance’s content and delivery.

The consultation is available online at:

Whilst an alcohol-free childhood is recommended by Chief Medical Officer, Sir Liam Donaldson, the harsh reality is that by the age of 15 many children have already consumed alcohol and substantial numbers drink weekly.

Nearly 10,000 children aged 11-17 are admitted to hospital each year in the UK as a result of their alcohol consumption, with 6,000 of these aged 11-15. The reasons include alcohol poisoning and injuries. Alcohol can also have a detrimental effect on development and, in particular, during teenage years is related to a wide range of health and social problems. Heavy drinking during adolescence may affect normal brain functioning during adulthood.

Young people who drink heavily may also develop problems with the liver, bone, growth and endocrine development; and the earlier they start drinking alcohol the more likely they are to develop alcohol abuse problems or dependence in adolescence and adulthood. Research has shown that deaths from liver disease are now occurring at much younger ages than had previously been seen. Young people who drink are also more likely than their peers to fail to use a condom; have sex at a younger age; become pregnant, and catch sexually transmitted infections [1].

Parents and young people have asked for a clear message on the health effects of alcohol consumption on young people and what the boundaries should be on when and how children could be introduced to alcohol, and have asked for more information on which to base their decisions and choices.

The five-point medical guidance will form part of the consultation launched by the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families Ed Balls; Health Secretary, Alan Johnson, and the Chief Medical Officers of the UK.

Following the launch of the Youth Alcohol Action Plan in June 2008, it is a response to parent and carer feedback that they do not want Government to decide when or how their children are introduced to alcohol. What they want is clear messages on issues including:

— the age children and young people can start to drink alcohol

— how much is sensible for young people to drink

— how far parents or carers should supervise young people’s drinking

The consultation will address messaging around these, to ensure that the guidance is successful in reducing negative impacts of alcohol on young people, families and the community.

Sir Liam Donaldson, Chief Medical Officer says:

“Evidence shows how parents can influence young people’s alcohol use, by having strict rules on young people’s drinking; through supervision and management; and through the closeness of their relationships with their children. Parents and carers have asked for clear messages and we do not have all the answers, which is why this consultation has been set up.

“With the help of key stakeholders as well as parents and young people, we hope that this guidance will act as a valuable tool for reducing the impact of youth alcohol consumption on health, crime, violence and anti-social behaviour.”

The Chief Medical Officers’ Guidance on the Consumption of Alcohol by Children and Young People advises:

— an alcohol-free childhood is the safest option – if children drink alcohol, it shouldn’t be before they reach 15 years old;

— for those aged 15 – 17 years old all alcohol consumption should be with the guidance of a parent or carer or in a supervised environment;

— children aged 15 – 17 years old should never exceed adult recommended daily maximums. As a general guide, children aged 15 and 16 should not usually drink on more than one day a week, children aged 17 should drink on no more than two days a week;

— 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;

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

For more information or to get involved, please visit:



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