- What next for reducing alcohol harm in Scotland?
- Scotland must do more to turn tide of alcohol harm
- Concern as funding for alcohol services cut
- Budget: No change in alcohol duty
- Scottish Government urged to curb alcohol marketing
- Consumers have the right to know health risks
- Chancellor urged to tackle cheap, strong cider in Budget
- Online help for families affected by alcohol
- Alcohol-free childhood is healthiest option
- SWA granted leave to appeal minimum pricing
- Drink drive warning
- Scottish Greens call for action on alcohol marketing
- Scottish Government receives European alcohol award
- SWA will appeal to UK Supreme Court
- Half of alcohol being sold under 50p per unit
- SWA urged to respect minimum pricing decision
- Alcohol and mental health are closely linked
- Minimum pricing can be implemented in Scotland
- Alcohol sold at pocket money prices
- Scotland has so much to gain from reducing how much we drink
- AFS welcomes revised alcohol consumption guidelines
- Emergency services face shocking levels of alcohol abuse
- Every child has the right to grow up safe from alcohol harm
- Public health must prevail over big business
- New toolkit to help children affected by family alcohol problems
- Price check reveals cheap cost of strong alcohol
- Sales increase underlines need for minimum pricing
- Time to kick alcohol out of sport
- Alcohol linked with stomach cancer
- AFS calls for compulsory health warnings on alcoholic drinks
- Are supermarkets 'responsible retailers' when it comes to alcohol?
- Scottish health charities call for excise duty rise to tackle cheap alcohol
- Alcohol campaigners unite to call for stronger protection from alcohol advertising to children
- New resource for people concerned about alcohol in their community
- Minimum pricing decision delayed until summer
- No completely 'safe' level of drinking
- New alcohol guidelines published
- Minimum pricing - European court ruling
- Alcohol fuels ambulance assaults
- 82% of Scots agree drink driving is unacceptable
- Scotland's alcohol strategy - what next?
- Scotland leads way in evidence-based alcohol policy
- New report reveals impact of alcohol on emergency services
- AFS appoints new chief executive
- Alcohol: a global concern
- Campaigners gather in Edinburgh for global alcohol conference
- Alcohol and pregnancy don't mix
- European Court minimum pricing opinion
- Call for minimum pricing as alcohol deaths rise
- How much are we really drinking?
- Majority of Brits harmed by other people's drinking
- Interactive map of alcohol and tobacco outlets
- Help consumers make an informed choice about alcohol
- Alcohol debate must continue
- Alcohol sponsorship in Formula 1: a dangerous cocktail
- Minimum pricing case to be heard in Europe
Alcohol-free childhood is healthiest option
An alcohol-free childhood is the healthiest and best option
The Scottish Ambulance Service deals with over 1000 alcohol-related incidents involving under-18s every year. Being sick, having an argument and doing something which is later regretted are the most common short-term consequences of under-age drinking. Sadly, there can also be more serious long-term consequences; drinking patterns started in early adolescence can lead to problem drinking in later life. There are also serious risks to personal safety with too many tragic examples of young people dying from hypothermia, drowning or having some other kind of accident when drunk. On top of this, young people's bodies and brains are more vulnerable to alcohol’s toxic effects because they are still developing. The scientific evidence is that an alcohol-free childhood is the healthiest and best option.
The latest survey of secondary school pupils’ substance use shows that around a third of 13 year olds and two thirds of 15 year olds in Scotland have tried alcohol. Most teenagers in Scotland drink infrequently and the number of pupils drinking in the last week has fallen over the past 15 years. But alcohol is still the drug of choice for many teenagers and it’s concerning that there has been an increase in the proportion of 13 year olds who report being drunk in the past week.
There are certain risk factors which make young people more likely to drink including having older friends, having more money to spend and pressure to ‘fit in’ with what others are doing. Stricter enforcement of licensing laws has made it more difficult for teenagers to purchase alcohol directly from shops; they are now more likely to get alcohol from home, older friends and relatives. As children grow up, their attitude towards alcohol will be influenced by what they see, hear and experience at home. Parents shouldn’t underestimate how much influence they can have. Many parents think it is a good idea to give their children alcohol to remove the ‘mystique’ and to introduce some control about what, where and how much they drink. But it is important for parents to be aware of the potentially very serious harm that alcohol can do to children and young people.
On top of that, we know more and more people are choosing to drink at home. Parents may think that their children don’t notice their drinking but they do. When talking with a group of parents recently, one dad said he was shocked when his young daughter brought him a beer from the fridge as he settled on the sofa to watch the match, because ‘that’s what you do when you watch football’. A mum told us: “When I put my kids to bed one night they asked me if it was wine o’clock time now. I didn’t even think they knew I had a wee drink.”
It’s clear that our attitudes and behaviours shape those of our kids. Next month, Alcohol Focus Scotland will launch a new website for parents and families called My Family and Alcohol. This will help families to explore if, and how, they are affected by someone’s drinking and it will provide advice and a directory of support services.
As well as seeing alcohol at home, children are also regularly bombarded with positive messages about alcohol on television, social media, in shops and on our streets. Children as young as 10 years old are highly familiar with alcohol brands and we know that exposure to advertising can lead to young people drinking at an earlier age and drinking more. Our #alcoholfreekids campaign has been supported by children’s charities, health groups and MSPs from all parties who agree that alcohol marketing has no place in childhood. Children should not have to see alcohol being advertised outside the school gates or when they visit Murrayfield or Hampden Park.
Young people are growing up with the message that drinking is normal, risk-free and fun. That’s not surprising when we have such a high number of outlets selling alcohol at pocket money prices and it is so heavily promoted. There are very few spaces which are completely alcohol-free – it seems alcohol is available literally anytime, anywhere. A recent example was a “family-friendly rave”, aimed at parents with children under 8, applying for an alcohol licence. And, if there’s one setting which should definitely be alcohol-free it’s school, yet alcohol is served at parent’s evenings and carol concerts. Licensing boards need to think very carefully about the potential impact on children when granting licences for such events.
We will be publishing a report early next year which makes recommendations to ensure children can go about their daily lives without constantly seeing alcohol brands and messages. Among these will be recommendations to ban alcohol advertising in public spaces like streets, parks and on public transport, and phasing out alcohol sponsorship in sport.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) Europe Declaration on Young People and Alcohol states that all children and adolescents have the right to grow up in an environment protected from the negative consequences of alcohol consumption. It shouldn’t be too much to ask that children in Scotland can play, learn and socialise in places that are healthy and safe, free from exposure to alcohol marketing and harm.
Alison Douglas, Chief Executive, Alcohol Focus Scotland