The drinking habits of teenagers and young adults has been put in the spotlight again this week with the launch of a campaign against parents introducing alcohol to their children at an early age.
The ‘What’s The Harm’ initiative, run by health campaigners in the north-east of England and backed by experts across the UK, urges parents to delay the moment their child first drinks alcohol because it can damage the growing brain. It aims to dispel the myth that introducing your children to alcohol, for example with a glass of wine at the dinner table, will take away the novelty and encourage moderate drinking as they get older.
Guidance from the chief medical officer says that an alcohol-free childhood and youth up to the age of 18 is healthiest – and that no child should be drinking at all before they turn 15. While many parents allow their children to have a drink under supervision before 15, evidence shows children who start drinking at an early age are more likely to become heavy drinkers when they are older, with 15% of 11 year-olds and increasing to 73% of 15 year-olds drinking.
The campaign comes at a time when teenage alcohol consumption across the UK has seen a ‘dramatic’ reduction. Adults and children are drinking less than they did 10 years ago. Most children do not drink regularly. Since 2002 the number of 11-15 year olds drinking regularly has gone down from one in four to nearer one in 10.
As the figures shown from the NHS see a drop in consumption, when the ban on the sale of budget alcohol came into effect.
“If you let them drink from a young age, they can be educated to drink responsibly. At 18 you’re not going to drink responsibly, that’s what happened to me, I didn’t drink responsibly,” A student from the University of Westminster believes that the age shouldn’t be a problem and that you can teach children to drink responsibly.
“16 at home, maybe a glass of wine with dinner, introduce it at home. Teenagers drink earlier these days, if they are introduced to it at home earlier, then they won’t go out as much with their mates wanting to do it,” Jennifer who has a children who are now old enough to drink themselves, believes that introducing children to moderate drinking helps reduce the risk of them becoming binge drinkers when they are older.
Whether you let your children drink from a young age or not, the recommendation from the NHS is not to let them drink until the age of 15. Despite the figures showing a fall in alcohol consumption.