Children aged under 15 should never be given alcohol, even in small quantities, England's chief medical officer (CMO) has advised parents. Sir Liam Donaldson said childhood should be an "alcohol-free time", as ministers publish draft guidance on the issue for the first time. He told BBC News children who drink were at risk of "serious harm". It is legal for parents to give a child over five alcohol in the home and the guidance is not expected to become law.
The draft guidance says children over 15 should not be given alcohol on more than one day a week - and only under supervision from carers or parents. Sir Liam told the BBC the practical advice was a direct response from parents who wanted information on the health effects of giving children alcohol. More from BBC News
Following publication of the draft guidance, the Chief Medical Officer has produced five tips to help parents address the issue of alcohol consumption by children and young people
- Establish family values on alcohol Lead by example. Avoid exposing children and young people to family situations, behaviours and environments that are alcohol-fuelled or where driniking is the central activity.
- Educate and inform Make children aware from an early age of the damage to body and health caused by early or excessive use of alcohol. Regularly reinforce the messages.
- Set boundaries Establish the norm that childhood and adolescence should be alcohol-free. Make clear that drink parties, clandestine drinking and getting drunk are not acceptable.
- Encourage positive alternatives Encourage young people to pursue positive social interests, such as taking parrt in team sports or organised youth activities.
- Challenge stereotypes Take opportunities to dispel the attractive images of alcohol consumption. Getting drunk is not a fun activity. Heavy drinkers are not heroic.
The guidance for parents on children's drinking, was promised in the Youth Alcohol Action Plan. The advice on under 15s is likely to spark fierce debate; Alcohol Concern tested the water with it in 2007 and got a fair amount of flack. Earlier this week Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, Ed Balls, attempted to prepare the ground by linking alcohol use to teenage pregnancy.
It will be interesting to see the evidence upon which the advice is based. Meanwhile, Sir Liam has today launched a consultation on the draft guidance, here.