Page last updated at 22:44 GMT, Friday, 18 September 2009 23:44 UK

'Teach' over fives about alcohol

Selection of malt whisky
Children need to be 'aware' of alcohol issues, Mr Paterson said

A whisky expert has called for children aged five and over to be "educated" about alcohol in a bid to combat its misuse.

Whyte and Mackay master blender Richard Paterson said it was important to shape children's behaviour around alcohol from a young age.

Mr Paterson said:"We need to talk to young people about the consequences of abusing alcohol."

NHS Health Scotland said it encouraged parents to talk about alcohol.

Mr Paterson, who is based in Glasgow, said he was taught about alcohol from the age of eight by his father and grandfather and this allowed him to make informed choices.

He said:" I have been working with the Greater Easterhouse Alcohol Awareness project for two years and they bring an understanding of alcohol to around 40 schools.

I am not saying go out and drink it is simply about teaching
Richard Paterson
Master Blender

"It is a fascinating project, this group is going into schools and teaching 3,000 pupils about the dangers of alcohol and this must be a benefit, as well as bringing an awareness to children, telling them about the problems that can arise from alcohol misuse.

"I am not saying go out and drink, it is simply about teaching them and it should be done within the family context and in conjunction with schools."

Mr Paterson added: "Look at the European model, parents there present alcohol to their children in a responsible manner.

"There is no silver bullet that will solve our country's problem with alcohol, it is not just government's responsibility alone, a raft of people have to come together to work on this issue.

"But the sooner we get to young people and make them aware, the better off we all will be."

Culture change

Stuart Mackay, project manager for the Greater Easterhouse Alcohol Awareness project, said: "We deliver a four week programme to schools, which involves discussions with the children on what alcohol is.

"We dispel some of the myths surrounding alcohol and give children the facts.

"We talk to children about the effects of alcohol and incorporate life skills to help them make informed choices about alcohol later on."

He said there was evidence that youngsters who took the programme had a far better understanding of the risks and harm that can be caused by alcohol, than those who had not.

Children do need to understand alcohol and how it can be used responsibly but that means parents have to behave responsibly around alcohol
Jack Law
Alcohol Focus Scotland

"If we want to change Scotland's drinking culture we believe you have to start with the youngsters, as they are the next generation," he said

A spokeswoman for NHS Health Scotland said: "Our advice is that no amount of alcohol is completely safe for children or young people to drink, as their bodies are not fully developed to cope with the effects.

"We also encourage parents to talk to their children about alcohol and build trust with them on the issue."

Jack Law, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, said: "Children do need to understand alcohol and how it can be used responsibly but that means parents have to behave responsibly around alcohol."



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