England's Chief Medical Officer announced on 29 January, 2009 that children aged under 15 should never be given alcohol, even in small quantities. Yet according to UK law, it is legal for parents to give a child over five alcohol in the home. So where should the line be drawn? This Entry will attempt to see both sides of the debate.
Binge drinking is becoming more of a major problem in towns and cities across the UK. Young people drinking well over the recommended sensible drinking limits are a familiar sight across the country on Friday and Saturday nights. Some believe that the increase in this activity is due to the low cost of alcohol, whereas others believe it is because young people are not taught how to drink sensibly. Binge drinking has also been linked to many pubs and clubs offering drinks promotions.
Ministers and doctors are worried by rising rates of binge drinking and alcohol-related liver disease in the young and see the guideline as a necessary step in preventing people getting a taste for alcohol at too young an age.
- BBC News website
Already we can see that there are mixed opinions on the reasons for binge drinking.
Teenagers are not normally credited with having much common sense. Why then is there less of an alcohol problem in southern Europe? The answer to this one is simple. In the majority of southern European countries children are given watered-down wine with their meal from a fairly young age. This teaches children and young people about the affects of alcohol and how to drink sensibly.
If we did that in the UK then We wouldn't have such a bad drinking problem.
- An h2g2 Researcher
Teaching children about alcohol in this way only works if the parents themselves know how to drink sensibly, hovever.
'The perception (in Britain, anyway) seems to be that Europeans drink alcohol to enjoy it, while the British drink alcohol to get drunk.'
- An h2g2 Researcher
Public attitudes to this government advice has been greatly mixed since the recommendation was made. Soundbites from the general public, especially from those who would be affected by any change in the law, were widely used on BBC radio stations.
Quotes from members of the public posted via the BBC News website were divided over the issue.
'Teenagers shouldn't be drinking but in the real world it happens and they are going to get it elsewhere.'
'Parents can take control by taking the mystique out of it by giving them a taste and educating their children about alcohol and abuse of alcohol.
So maybe you are a teenager. Do you drink before you turn 15, or do you wait until you are old enough to buy your own alcohol? Parents, are you teaching your children to drink sensibly or as the BBC soundbite, suggests, are you 'too strict'? According to the BBC News website, the public will be asked its views during a three-month consultation period, so any change cannot become law until after March, 2009.