Stop Giving Children Alcohol, Parents Told; Top Doctor's Warning over Middle-Class 'Obsession'

Article excerpt

Byline: Jenny Hope Medical Correspondent

THE 'middle-class obsession' of giving teenagers a small taste of alcohol to 'wean' them was yesterday condemned by the Government's chief medical officer.

Sir Liam Donaldson said parents should give under-15s no alcohol at all.

Those aged from 15 to 18 should be allowed a small amount no more than once a week, he said.

His first official advice on drinking and children was ordered by the health and children's secretaries last year. But critics said parents should be left to use their 'common sense', warning an outright alcohol ban risked increasing its allure as 'forbidden fruit'.

His advice is to become part of an official advertising campaign next month aimed at tackling a problem which, according to new NHS figures, sees half a million incidents of 11-to 15-year-olds getting drunk every month.

Sir Liam, who yesterday announced his intention to step down from his post, said myths about children's drinking were harmful.

He implied most were held by middle-class parents.

He said the idea that if you 'somehow wean children on to alcohol at an early age they won't have any problems in later life' was not supported by evidence.

Those who let children under 15 sip watered-down wine could give them a 'taste for it', he added.

Sir Liam said studies had shown those who begin drinking early are more likely to develop alcoholrelated problems.

'The more they get a taste for it, the more likely they are to be heavy drinking adults or binge drinkers later in childhood,' Sir Liam said.

'It's a bit of a middle-class obsession - the idea of taking out the wine bottle and diluting it. There's not a great problem to that as such, but to extrapolate from that sort of situation that alcohol in general is a good thing just does not work.'

The chief medical officer also said parents - who can legally give their children alcohol from the age of five - should also avoid exposing youngsters to 'alcohol-fuelled environments' or family events where drinking is the central activity. …