Children and young people are advised not to drink alcohol before the age of 18.
Alcohol use during the teenage years is related to a wide range of health and social problems.
However, if children do drink alcohol underage, it shouldn’t be until they are at least 15.
Health Advice on Children Drinking Alcohol
The Chief Medical Officer has provided guidance on the consumption of alcohol by children and young people (PDF). This can help parents make decisions about their children and their relationship with alcohol.
Drinking alcohol can damage a child’s health, even if they’re 15 or older. It can affect the normal development of vital organs and functions, including the brain, liver, bones and hormones.
Beginning to drink before age 14 is associated with increased health risks, including alcohol-related injuries, involvement in violence, and suicidal thoughts and attempts.
Drinking at an early age is also associated with risky behaviour, such as violence, having more sexual partners, pregnancy, using drugs, employment problems and drink driving.
Advice for parents:
- If children do drink alcohol, they shouldn’t do so until they’re at least 15 years old.
- If 15 to 17-year-olds drink alcohol, it should be rare, and never more than once a week. They should always be supervised by a parent or carer.
- If 15 to 17-year-olds drink alcohol, they should never exceed the recommended adult weekly limit (14 units of alcohol). 1 unit of alcohol is about half a pint of normal-strength beer or a single measure (25ml) of spirits. A small glass of wine equals 1.5 units of alcohol.
- If your child intends to drink alcohol, using positive practices such as incentives, setting limits, agreeing on specific boundaries and offering advice can help.