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Page last updated at 10:11 GMT, Thursday, 29 January 2009
'No alcohol at home' for under-15s

By Tamasin Ford
Newsbeat reporter

Boy drinking alcohol

Children under 15 shouldn't be given any alcohol at home, according to new advice from England's Chief Medical Officer, Sir Liam Donaldson.

It's part of the first set of guidelines for parents in England on the risks of young people drinking produced for the Government.

The latest statistics show around one in five 13-year-olds in the UK drink at least once a week.

Seventeen-year-old Matt, from Bristol, had his first drink at the age of eight on the Millennium New Year's Eve, but got drunk properly for the first time when he was a teenager.

It's not just about young people drinking, it's about the alcohol problem we have as a whole as a nation
Nicolay Sorensen from the charity Alcohol Concern
"It was the summer when I turned 14 and it was a house party. I must have had, over the course of the night, 10 glasses," he said.

By the time you're 15, figures show you've probably already had your first drink.

But with deaths from liver disease happening at a younger age, these new guidelines are advising against it.

Critics are worried the advice won't work in practice and Matt thinks it may make younger people want to drink even more because they know they're not supposed to.

"They're unrealistic and it'll just be another rule to break and a new thing that will make people feel they have to go against it," said Matt.

Drinking up

At the moment, UK law states children can drink at home under supervision from the age of five.

But while Government research shows the number of young people who regularly drink has fallen to around 21% of 11 to 15-year-olds, it's also found those who drink alcohol do so far more often than in the past.

Bottles of alcopops
Young people are drinking more often than they used to

And it's the stronger stuff, the spirits and the alcopops, that are the favourites.

These new guidelines are advising against drinking any alcohol at all until you're at least 15.

And from 15, if teenagers have to drink, then it shouldn't be more than once a week.

At house parties, in the corner crying and lying in their own sick are the girls who've got really strict parents, who've never let them drink before
Matt, 17 from Bristol, who had his first drink aged eight
Nicolay Sorensen from the charity, Alcohol Concern, welcomes the advice.

He said: "I think as far as guidelines go it's good you know, it's what parents need."

But he says they would still like to see the Government do more.

"It's not just about young people drinking, it's about the alcohol problem we have as a whole as a nation.

"And if we don't get to grips with that, one piece of guidance isn't going to change the world but hey, it's a step in the right direction."

But Matt's worried about the guidelines glamorising alcohol and making it even more taboo.

"I just think there has to be a gradual entrance into alcohol," he said.

He says he's noticed teenagers, who aren't allowed to drink when they're under 18, are often the ones who end up in trouble.

He said: "In my experience at house parties and things, in the corner crying and lying in their own sick are the girls who've got really strict parents, who've never let them drink before."

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