Page last updated: June 2022
Research into parents’ awareness of Chief Medical Officer Guidance that an alcohol free childhood is best

Many UK parents are unaware of official guidance on when their teens should have their first alcoholic drink, according to a new report from The Community Alcohol Partnership.
In 2009, the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) for England published guidance on alcohol aimed for children and young people. In order to test public understanding of Government advice on alcohol consumption for under 18s, the Community Alcohol Partnership (CAP) commissioned 4 questions as part of an Ipsos Omnibus poll that took place in February 2022. 2000 adults aged 18-75 participated in the survey (not all of them parents).
Of those who said they are aware of the CMO guidelines, 34% were aware of the ‘alcohol-free childhood is the healthiest and best option’ guideline (this equates to 14% of the total sample); 31% of those aware of the CMO guidance were aware of the ‘Children should not drink alcohol before they are 15 years old’ guideline (10% of the total sample); and 21% of those aware of the guidance were aware of the ‘Children aged 15 to 17 should only drink with the guidance of a parent or carer or in a supervised environment’ guideline (9% of the total sample).
Overall, 69% of adults said that, if they needed it, they would turn to Government or NHS websites or apps for advice/guidance/information regarding alcohol consumption amongst the under 18s, 43% said they would turn to a healthcare professional (e.g., a GP, a pharmacist, etc.) and a similar number (42%) would turn to alcohol education charities (e.g., Alcohol Change UK, Alcohol Education Trust, Drinkaware).
The report makes three recommendations for action that will harness the active participation of parents in reducing alcohol consumption by their children and the adverse effects it has on their well-being, education, development and longer-term health.
• The UK, Welsh and Scottish Governments should actively promote the CMO guidance and ensure it is both widely available and accessible and that a substantial majority of parents are aware of its existence and advice. The advice should also be easy to find on key websites such as as well as NHS.UK and Talk to Frank [as it is already on the websites of Alcohol Change UK, Alcohol Education Trust and the Public Health Agency for Northern Ireland]. Raising awareness will require an active communication programme over a number of years.
• Alcohol harm reduction organisations should promote parental advice containing the CMO guidance to reach a wider community of parents/carers. They also need to provide accessible information for parents for whom English is not a first language and/or those who struggle with literacy. Resources aimed at parents should be easy to find as well as engaging and easy to understand. Much of the available advice is text heavy and should be supported by greater use of graphics and visuals to explain key pieces of information such as the effects of alcohol on a child’s developing body.
• There needs to be a step change in alcohol education interventions that involve parents who are children’s primary source of information on alcohol. Interventions to educate parents and their children about the risks associated with underage drinking should involve schools but could also involve other channels such as supermarkets which have played a key role in promoting Challenge 25. Partnership models such as CAP are especially well-placed to promote joined up communications targeting parents via schools, supermarkets and local campaigns such as the case studies in this report.

All text and images © 2003 Alcohol In Moderation.