While some parents may believe giving alcohol to their underage children teaches them to drink sensibly and safely, advice from the Health Promotion Agency is for people under 18 to avoid drinking alcohol entirely.
Research out of Australia has also confirmed that early drinking, even sips or tastes, can be connected to earlier and more harmful patterns of alcohol consumption. These early “tastings” could lead to increased frequency and quantity of alcohol consumption and increased alcohol-related problems in early adolescence.
MDHB Health Promotion Adviser Martin Macmaster said the MDHB Public Health Unit agreed with the advice. “Parents may think they are doing the right thing but they are probably unaware of the research and the potential for harm.”
Mr Macmaster said the research found there was no evidence of underage drinking having a protective effect later in life.
“The research instead suggests that they are being trained to drink, and drink earlier than they would have. Media images and sweet, easy to drink RTDs, are just a couple of the many influences pushing young people to drink.”
The MDHB Public Health Unit advices people to keep themelves, their friends and family safe over this festive season by drinking in moderation.
“People can reduce the impacts of alcohol by eating beforehand, drinking water between alcoholic drinks or drinking low-alcohol beverages. These steps can impact how you feel and function the following day, as well as help you to avoid expensive, embarrassing or dangerous problems on the night.”
Hosts are encouraged to provide plenty of food and non-alcoholic drinks at work or at home. Guests should also be encouraged to not drive after drinking and to organise sober drivers or taxis.
If you find it hard to stop drinking or to cut back, please talk to someone you trust or call the Alcohol Drug Helpline on 0800 787 797.