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A recent survey of over 1200 secondary school children in Portsmouth showed that the main way young people obtain alcohol is by parents providing it.
-29% of children said their parents provide them with alcohol, this compares to 22% nationally.
-The next most common method of obtaining alcohol is buying it with money given by parents.
-The survey of children in secondary school years 8 and 10, also showed that although 68% of children had tried alcohol a smaller percentage of children surveyed (29%) had been drunk in the past month.
-The survey showed that girls are likely to get drunk more often than boys. Whilst drunk children make themselves more vulnerable to being victims of crime. They may also have accidents or do things they regret when sober.
Children are less well equipped than adults to cope with the effects of alcohol, physically and emotionally. The same amount of alcohol will have a much greater effect on the body of a child or young person than on an adult, because their bodies are still growing and developing. Alcohol use by children is shown to impair brain development. Also, a young person doesn't have the experience needed to deal with the effects of alcohol on judgement and perception.
Due to these dangers, there are NO safe limits for alcohol consumption for under age drinkers. In 2009 the Government's Chief Medical Officer issued guidelines recommending that:
* Children and their parents and carers are advised that an alcohol-free childhood is the healthiest and best option.
* Children under 15 should not consume alcohol at all.
* For 15 to 17 year olds the healthiest option is to not consume alcohol, however if they do consume alcohol, they should do so no more than once a week and they should never consume more than the Government's recommended daily levels for adults (2-3 units for women and 3-4 units for men - approximately one large glass of wine or a pint of lager)
Karen Monteith, an Alcohol worker that provides alcohol education in schools has heard first hand from children about parents buying alcohol, she said:
"There is an issue with the normalisation of buying alcohol for your children, with parent's believing that all other parents are providing their children with alcohol. There is also a concern around the strength of drinks being bought for young people. Parents are often persuaded to buy vodka rather than lower strength drinks. It is important that parents feel confident to say 'no'".
Dr. Paul Edmondson-Jones, Director of Public Health and Primary Care said:
"It is a worry that despite the Chief Medical Officer's recommendations parents are still providing alcohol to children. The survey highlights that we need to do more to inform parents that children under 15 should never consume alcohol.
"The survey shows that most children are not getting drunk, it is only a minority, however those that are drinking excessively are often being aided and abetted by their parents.
"Parents should be aware that children may well be drinking the alcohol they provide, along with alcohol obtained by other means. Getting drunk without parental supervision leads to all sorts of problems that our A&E department and the police have to deal with.
"The City Council and police are doing what they can to reduce underage sales, NHS Portsmouth also fund alcohol education and advice in schools an Alcohol Advisory School Nurse and other advice services.
"Adults also need to think about how their own drinking will impact their children. Parents may find their parenting skills impaired by alcohol. Many children will see their parents as role models and may develop an unhealthy attitude to alcohol."
Support and advice is available:
-Alcohol Interventions Team, alcohol advice for anyone aged 16+. tel: 023 9284 1753
-Switch, Substance Misuse service - all ages up to 25 providing support for young people and families. Tel: 023 9282 5140