No Alcohol for Under-15s, Top Medic Tells Parents in Wales; NOW NEW GUIDELINE STRESSES EVIDENCE OF HARM TO YOUNG

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Byline: MADELEINE BRINDLEY

CHILDREN under 15 should not drink any alcohol at all, says Wales' chief medical officer.

Dr Tony Jewell says today there is clear evidence alcohol can harm the development of children, as he issued guidelines to reduce Wales' teenage drinking rates.

He also called on parents to drink responsibly, arguing it will set a good example to children.

And Health Minister Edwina Hart has repeated her intention to seek powers to stop alcohol being sold for pocket-money prices if the new UK government fails to act.

The guidelines on children and alcohol come amid growing concern about the amount children are drinking.

Figures suggest that, among 15-year-olds in Wales, four out of 10 drink every week and two in 10 said they first got drunk at the age of 13 or even younger.

Dr Jewell said: "Evidence shows that the younger people start drinking, the greater the impact on their health and wellbeing in the long term.

"We know that children are under a lot of peer pressure particularly in their teenage years, and may find it difficult not to go along with their friends who may drink or smoke.

"But it is essential that we all take responsibility for setting a good example to young people to minimise this. Not only is there a clear immediate and long-term impact on health of alcohol misuse, there is the potential for young people to be at risk of being involved in antisocial behaviour, crime, unwanted pregnancies or drugs. "I am not trying to preach to people with this new guidance. I aim to simply set out the facts to help parents and young people make informed choices. Ultimately, it is a matter for individuals if they take this advice on board."

The Assembly Government will launch a campaign to raise awareness about the dangers of young people's alcohol consumption to reduce the impact on individuals, families and society.

A video booth at this week's Urdd Eisteddfod is gauging young people's views on alcohol and will help to inform future public health campaigns.

Mrs Hart said: "While we are taking action to improve education, prevention and treatment, the main levers to make the most significant change remain with the UK Government through the power to legislate on price, licensing and advertising.

I will work with the UK government on this but if it does not take action soon, I will seek the powers to act ourselves.

"I welcome that the new UK Government has already indicated that it will review the licensing laws and that it will end the promotions on alcohol as this will help to reduce the binge drinking culture."

Dr Richard Lewis, Welsh secretary of the British Medical Association, said: "Children under 15 are still developing their brains and drinking alcohol can do severe damage and have long-lasting consequences. …