Children bear witness to pervasive influence of alcohol

Children find drinking in parks threatening. Photograph: 'Getty/iStockphoto
Children find drinking in parks threatening. Photograph: 'Getty/iStockphoto
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Scotland’s leading alcohol reduction charity is working with the Children’s Parliament to build support for the concept of an alcohol-free childhood for young people.

A group of 9 to 11-year-old “investigators” have been working with Alcohol Focus Scotland and 100 of their peers in three Edinburgh primary schools with the aim of learning more about where they see drink on a daily basis and how this makes them feel.

The pupils from Stenhouse, Sighthill and St John’s primary school met the Minister for Public Health, Joe Fitzpatrick, and Alison Douglas, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, to discuss the findings from workshops they had carried out with their classmates.

The young people talked about seeing alcohol or alcohol-related advertising from early in the morning, while getting breakfast, on their walk to school, on posters and billboards in parks, then on TV and online in the home before they went to bed.

The groups also spoke about seeing people drinking while travelling on trains and before football matches.

When asked by Fitzpatrick whether they saw alcohol adverting on TV, one child responded: “We see it a lot, all the time.”

The investigators from the Children’s Parliament told the minister that they saw brightly coloured price tags highlighting price discounts, sports ground hoardings with alcohol advertising, alcohol at parties and social gatherings, and people drinking in parks.

Alison Douglas said: “As adults we tend to assume that as an age-restricted product children aren’t aware of alcohol and its advertising, but we’ve got young children who are very aware of the different types of drinks, and of particular brands.

“What this work has really shown is just how often children are seeing alcohol – from opening the fridge in the morning when they get their breakfast, throughout the day in shops, on adverts and in the home – and the negative effect it can have on their wellbeing.”

FitzPatrick said: “Clearly alcohol has a huge impact on the lives of children, and it’s really important that we hear their voices as we move on to develop policies to protect children from the alcohol harm that affects the whole of society.”

Read comment by Monica Lennon, Scottish Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport, at https://bit.ly/2wwb8LN