Reducing harm caused by alcohol


Scottish primary children call for action on alcohol

  • Schoolchildren share how being around alcohol can make them feel unsafe and ignored
  • 9 – 11 year olds think alcohol advertising makes drinking look ‘cool’ and may encourage both adults and children to drink
  • Children call for action to make alcohol less visible by removing advertising and sponsorship and putting alcohol in adult-only areas in shops.
  • Scottish Government confirms it will consult on marketing restrictions in spring 2020

A new report published today [Thursday 19th September] by Children’s Parliament reveals how frequent exposure to alcohol at home, in shops and adverts and in the community  makes children feel unsafe and ignored  – and they want something done about it.

Members of the Children’s Parliament have called for alcohol to be made less visible in shops and on TV, billboards with alcohol adverts to be removed, and alcohol sponsorship of events at which children are present to be stopped.

The work comes after children consistently expressed concerns about alcohol during other Children’s Parliament programmes, projects and consultations.

Nine Investigators – experienced members of the Children’s Parliament aged 9 to 11 – facilitated workshops about alcohol with more than 90 of their peers. The children from three Edinburgh Primary Schools shared their thoughts and experiences of alcohol and what life might be like if they didn’t encounter alcohol on a regular basis. The work was led by the Children’s Parliament, in partnership with Alcohol Focus Scotland.

Children's Parliament visit with PH minister

Children's Parliament Investigators

The children described alcohol as being highly visible throughout their day, including in the home, in the community, on the streets, in shops, next to bins, in parks, on public transport, at sports games, festivals, in airports and train stations, and in hotels.

They also demonstrated awareness and knowledge of alcohol branding and advertising, with some children clearly discussing certain brands, logos and their advertising strategies.  A number of specific brands were also reflected in the pictures the children drew.

The schoolchildren recognised that adverts can be harmful to children as they promote alcohol to be something desirable, exciting and cool, which might encourage adults to drink more whilst also making it appealing to children to drink in the future.

One Children’s Parliament Member, aged 10, said of the project “No one asks us about alcohol and suddenly when you think about it, you realise it’s all around you all the time.”

In workshops held in Edinburgh schools the youngsters shared how their relationships with adults can be compromised when they are under the influence of alcohol leaving them feeling unsafe, bored, excluded and ignored as well as concerned for the wellbeing of adults.

Alison Douglas, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland said, “As adults we tend to assume that as an age-restricted product children don’t really notice alcohol advertising or people drinking. What this work has shown us for the first time is how often children are seeing alcohol – from opening the fridge at breakfast time, throughout the day in shops and on billboards to in their homes and on TV at night – and the negative effects it can have on their wellbeing. We need to listen to what children are telling us about how we can better protect and promote their right to grow up healthy and happy, free from alcohol harm.”

Coming at a time when the Scottish Government have committed to incorporating children’s human rights into Scots Law, and after the Alcohol Framework 2018 pledged to ensure the voices of children and young people are at the heart of developing preventative measures on alcohol in Scotland this work provides vital evidence and practical ways forward.

Cathy McCulloch, Co-Director of Children’s Parliament said, “Children have the right to have their voices heard in matters that affect them and we, as adults, have a responsibility to listen and respond. Throughout this process, children have been clear about the impact that alcohol has on their lives and what needs to happen to ensure that children’s rights to be happy, healthy and safe are realised. This report sends a clear message to all of Scotland’s adults.”

The report and accompanying film will be shown at an event in the Scottish Parliament this afternoon sponsored by Monica Lennon MSP.

Public Health Minister Joe FitzPatrick, who earlier this year visited a workshop with Members of the Children’s Parliament, said: “It is crucial that we seek and listen to the views of children and young people in determining how best to prevent and reduce the impact of alcohol on them.

“The Children’s Parliament Investigators have done a great job in capturing and sharing the experiences of many of their peers, providing a unique and sobering insight which will help to inform the proposals for our consultation on restrictions to alcohol marketing issuing next spring.”

Read the report