Swanswell welcomes conversation around tackling underage drinking

22 November 2013

Swanswell’s welcoming conversations around tackling underage drinking after a new report called for a crackdown on adults buying alcohol for children.

The national recovery charity, which wants to achieve a society free from problem alcohol and drug use, is responding to research published by Demos today (22 November 2013) called ‘Sobering Up’.

It suggests that people who buy alcohol on behalf of young people under 18 should face tougher punishments including community service, social shaming or be banned from shops.

The research suggests a third of 11 to 15 year olds admitted getting alcohol in the last four weeks; one in five were given alcohol by parents; and the same number said they’d received it from friends. Around one in seven had also asked someone else to buy it for them.

While Swanswell supports any focus on tackling underage and problem drinking, it believes the conversation needs to be about the harms of giving alcohol to children, rather than simply toughening the punishment for those who do it.

Debbie Bannigan, Swanswell’s Chief Executive, said: ‘Any conversation around tackling underage drinking is welcome but the focus here needs to be around educating people about the risks of giving alcohol to children in the first place.

While there are implications for anyone drinking regularly or to excess, there’s a particular risk to children because it can affect areas of the brain that are still developing, increase the risk of liver disease and the chance of becoming alcohol dependent later (source: Drinkaware).

If children are seeing friends or relatives drinking regularly or getting drunk, or if alcohol is being bought for them or given to them, then they’ll assume it’s normal behaviour and they’ll more than likely mirror it themselves.

Many of the people who come to us for help say that their problems with alcohol started when they were under 18, often because they could get someone else to buy it for them or it was easily accessible in the home.

So it’s important for adults to think about their own attitudes towards alcohol and the message they’re sending to children – have regular, open conversations to help young people understand the harms, so they can make informed decisions about alcohol use.

Having access to better education and clearer information about alcohol use will go a long way to achieving that.’

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