With exams over and summer holidays on the horizon, Balance and partners are warning parents about the risks of providing teenagers with alcohol.
Balance, police and local authorities are encouraging parents to think twice about giving drinks to children which can harm their health, put them at risk and undermine 18 plus age of sale laws designed to protect communities.
It comes as Balance launches 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.
Drinking during the childhood years increases the risks of accidents, injuries, smoking and drug taking, and can affect their mood and mental health. Regular drinking also increases the risk in adulthood of cancer, including breast and bowel cancer.
Research shows around 70% of alcohol drank by children comes from the family home. Evidence suggests that drinking in childhood is more likely to give them a taste for it and lead to heavier drinking as adults.
Chief Medical Officer (CMO)’s guidance recommends that an alcohol-free childhood up to 18 is the healthiest and best option, and that if children do drink it should not be before age 15.
Susan Taylor, Head of Alcohol Policy for Balance, said: “Every parent wants what is best for their child and we have seen over the last couple of years the devastating impact of alcohol on both physical health and mental health.
“Nobody 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 reality is that too many local children are ending up in hospital, in A&E or with real problems in their lives because of alcohol.
“The longer we can delay drinking alcohol in the lives of our children, the better. One of the biggest myths among parents is that providing children with alcohol can help them “handle” drinking when they’re older, but the evidence is clear that drinking at a young age can give children a taste for regular and heavier drinking. So, we are urging parents to think twice about supplying alcohol and undermining over 18 laws which exist to protect our children and protect local communities.”
Karen Kilgour, Deputy Leader of Newcastle City Council and cabinet member for a Healthy, Caring City, said: “We all know that excessive consumption of alcohol can have serious consequences for our health, but there is less awareness of the fact that this impact is far greater on younger people and their development.
“Alcohol can cause serious health problems later in life when children, and especially those under the age of 15, start drinking from an early age.
“Parents want the very best for their children and I’m delighted to be able to support the ‘What’s The Harm?’ campaign to help raise of the dangers of alcohol in young people. We know there are a lot of people – including children – impacted by alcohol in the family and the campaign helps us to try and tackle the normalisation of alcohol.”
Amanda Healy, Director of Public Health for County Durham and Chair of the Association of Directors of Public Health – North East forum, said: “We all want the best for our children and to instil healthy habits that will help them to live long and healthy lives.
“For teenagers in particular, it can be all too easy for them to feel peer pressure to drink. They might also look to alcohol as an escape from school and exams. However, alcohol can actually make people feel more anxious and can often lead to increased risks of harmful behaviour and heavy drinking as an adult.
“That is why it is important that we understand the negative impact of alcohol, to both our mental and physical health. Talking to our children and making them aware of the dangers can help reduce these risks and promote healthier lifestyles for our loved ones.”
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.”
To find out the facts and the myths people can visit Whatstheharm.co.uk and download the