North East parents urged to think twice about providing alcohol to children
Balance and local authorities have issued a plea to parents to think twice about providing alcohol to children or teens this summer.
It comes as local authorities and police step up patrols and activity across the North East designed to support alcohol age of sale laws and community safety.
Balance is launching the What’s the Harm? campaign aimed at giving parents information about the risks of under-age drinking and encouraging families to think twice about providing alcohol.
Alcohol in childhood increases the risks of accidents, injuries, smoking and drug taking, and can affect children’s mood and mental health. But 70% of alcohol drank by children comes from the family home.
If children drink, this also increases their risk of them drinking more heavily as older teens and adults. Longer term, this raises the risks of diseases such as heart disease and seven types of cancer, including breast and bowel cancer.
Susan Taylor, Head of Alcohol Policy for Balance, said: “We all want the best for our children. No parent wants to think their child might be the one getting drunk, taking risks, having an accident or getting into a situation they can’t handle.
“But the fact is most of the alcohol that ends up in the hands of children comes from the home – often from parents. This undermines alcohol age of sale laws which are there to protect both children and communities.
“Nearly half of North East adults are drinking above low risk limits and raising their risks of seven types of cancer and cardiovascular disease. The longer we can delay drinking alcohol in the lives of our children, the better.”
Chief Medical Officer (CMO)’s guidance recommends an alcohol-free childhood up to 18 is the healthiest and best option, but if children do drink it should not be before age 15.
Ailsa Rutter OBE, Director of Fresh and Balance, added: “At the moment vaping is occupying a lot of concern from schools, parents and teachers and this is understandable. But the question is whether we are taking youth drinking as seriously as vaping?
“However, alcohol is a group one carcinogen which causes seven types of cancer, can ruin lives and result in dependency. We need to perhaps start to ask why giving children a few beers or ciders to have with friends is sometimes seen as a rite of passage.”
County Durham and Darlington Police and Crime Commissioner Joy Allen said: “I fully support this campaign and its important message to parents about the health and social risks of consuming alcohol before adulthood.
“Our licensing officers in Durham work very hard to enforce age of sale laws to protect children and promote community safety. By condoning or supplying alcohol to their children, even in what is perceived as a safe, family environment, parents are unintentionally undermining these efforts and putting their children at increased risk of harm physically and emotionally.
“The evidence is very clear; alcohol can impact the developing body and brain and contribute to low mood, depression and anxiety. Parenting teenagers is always a challenge however I would urge parents to hold open and honest conversations with their children around alcohol and discourage under-age drinking as best they can to help keep them healthy and safe and keep communities safe.”
Alice Wiseman, Director of Public Health for Gateshead and Alcohol Policy Lead for the Association of Directors of Public Health, said: “We all want the best for our children and it’s understandable that many parents believe that allowing small quantities of alcohol at home promotes a responsible approach to drinking. However, an entirely alcohol-free childhood is the safest choice, as even small amounts can affect the physical and mental health of young people.
“Starting to drink alcohol at a young age can also cause health problems in later life, with underage drinkers more likely to become heavy drinkers as adults. They’re also more likely to smoke, use drugs and take other risks that could lead to injuries.
“There are lots of good reasons why the law prohibits under 18s from buying alcohol, so my advice to parents is to talk to your kids and make sure they understand and respect this.”
To find out the facts and the myths people can visit Whatstheharm.co.uk and download the free Parents Guide which can help parents have a conversation with their child about alcohol.
Alcohol and children: the facts:
Chief Medical Officer advice for parents is that an alcohol-free childhood is the healthiest and best option. However, if children drink alcohol, it should not be until at least the age of 15. If young people aged 15 to 17 years drink alcohol, it should always be with the guidance of a parent or carer or in a supervised environment.
Drinking, even at age 15 or older, can be hazardous to health. Children who drink increase their risk of involvement in a wide range of health and social problems.
Alcohol can affect all the different systems in the body and the fact that children’s organs are still developing can make them particularly vulnerable. We know that drinking alcohol can affect their liver, bones, hormones and even their growth. Children are smaller, which means alcohol’s effects work more quickly on them in the short-term. Alcohol poisoning can result in young people being admitted to hospital or worse.
Young people are not immune to the chronic diseases and conditions associated with excess alcohol consumption in adults, and liver disease is now occurring at a younger age.
Alcohol may increase feelings of depression. There is a relationship between adolescent alcohol use and mental health problem, as well as low mood and motivation which can affect performance at school.
Children who drink regularly are also more likely to smoke and take illegal drugs, have accidents and be involved in risk taking behaviours.