Underage drinking can put children at increased risk of physical and social harm and in the UK a significant proportion of children have tried drinking alcohol before they reach the minimum legal purchase age of 18. Being clear on the law around alcohol is vital for both parents and children.
Teenagers can think they’re invincible but drinking when too young can damage their health and wellbeing. Most noticeable are the short term effects, such as bad breath, bad skin and weight gain. But, more damaging is the potential effect of underage drinking on the brain. Teenage years are an important time for brain development and alcohol can affect memory function, reactions and learning ability.
The consequences of underage drinking can affect everyone and every person has a responsibility to ensure alcohol is consumed responsibly.
If young people drink alcohol, they are more likely to end up in dangerous situations, for example, they are more likely to climb walls or other heights and fall off. Or they might verbally abuse someone who could hit them. They are also more likely to become aggressive themselves and throw a punch.
Underage children who drink to excess are twice as likely to commit a criminal offence and could result in a criminal record, which can damage a child’s prospects for life. Having a criminal record can prevent people from some jobs and for some offences, prevent them from travelling abroad.
Risks associated with drinking alcohol underage
- Alcohol poisoning
- Accidents and Injuries
- Appearance and Side Effects
- Brain Development and education
- Mental health
- Other substances
- Liver damage
If a person is under 18 and drinking alcohol in public, they can be stopped, fined or arrested by police. It is against the law for a trader to sell alcohol to anyone underage or for a person under 18 to buy or try to buy alcohol and for an adult to buy or try to buy alcohol for anyone under 18 (proxy sales).
Anthea Durant, Trading Standards Authorised Officer urges “Traders selling age-restricted goods (such as alcohol) not to put their livelihoods at risk and to use the Trading Standards accredited No Proof of Age No Sale online training resource to prevent the sale of goods that have an age restriction. This will also help businesses stay on the right side of the law”.
To combat underage drinking and other illegal sales of age-restricted goods, Trading Standards South West developed an online training resource for businesses called No Proof of Age – No Sale. To find out more and to see if you are eligible for free training, please visit www.npoans.org.uk.