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Last Updated: Thursday January 29 2009 14:57 GMT

Kids should 'never' drink alcohol

David Jones/PA

Children under 15 should never drink alcohol, even at home, as it's too big a risk to their health, the government's top doctor has said.

Sir Liam Donaldson says even a small amount now and then is too much for kids, as it can damage their bodies.

Alcohol can affect lots of bits of your body, including your brain, heart, stomach and liver.

Parents are allowed to let their children drink alcohol at home as long as they are older than five years old.

Sir Liam said: "There is serious harm that can come to children if they drink and the main advice is that childhood should be an alcohol-free time. Certainly under the age of 15 there are serious risks."

Bottles of alcohol

A recent survey said as many as one in every five young people in the UK drinks alcohol once a week. And one child under 10 ends up in hospital because of alcohol every three days in England.

Less problems?

However, some parents say letting children drink a little alcohol now and then means they are less likely to try to get hold of it themselves when they're older.

Some campaign groups also argue that the government shouldn't interfere with parents' decisions, and that in countries like France, where children often drink small amounts at home, there's less of a problem with binge drinking.

Not law

This is the first time the government has given advice on what children should drink, but there are no plans to make it law.

As well as the problems alcohol can cause to your body, experts are also worried that if they start drinking now they'll learn to like the taste.

That could be bad for their health when they get older, as drinking a lot of alcohol can make people seriously ill.