Children and young people are advised not to drink alcohol before the age of 18. 

Alcohol use during the teenage years is related to a wide range of health and social problems. It can have serious effects on developing brains and bodies, as well as leaving teenagers vulnerable to unsafe situations.

Drinking alcohol is seen as something teenagers are expected to do as part of growing up but starting to drink so young is more damaging than many teenagers realise.

The information on this page has been taken from the follwoing website:


Why do teenagers drink?

It’s easy for adults to dismiss teen drinking as a straightforward act of youthful rebellion but the reasons teenagers start drinking can be complicated and varied.

Peer pressure can be a major factor in contributing to drinking for the first time as teenagers feel the pressure to keep up with their friends to fit in.

The feeling that every other teenager is drinking can be made worse by popular culture, as TV and films often show teenagers with alcohol.  A recent study found that adolescents with the highest exposure to alcohol use in films were more likely to have tried alcohol compared with those least exposed and more likely to binge drink.

Teenagers may also drink to temporarily distract themselves from the pressures or worries of life. Puberty is a tough time and teenagers may wrongly think drinking is a way to cope.

Drinking affecting teenager's health

Teenagers can think they’re invincible but drinking when too young can damage health and wellbeing of young people. Most noticeable are the short term effects, such as bad breath, bad skin and weight gain.

However, more damaging is the potential effect of drinking on the young brain. Teenage years are important time for brain development.   

The 2009 Chief Medical Officer Reported concerns that heavy drinking at under twenty years old was associated with abnormalities in brain areas dealing with motivation, reasoning and interpersonal interactions. Subsequent research has shown that alcohol is indeed causing such changes in some young people.

Alcohol can also lower inhibitions which can make it more likely for teenagers to make risky like getting into fights or having unprotected sex.

Alcohol and underage drinking – the law 

If a person is under 18 and drinking alcohol in public, they can be stopped, fined or arrested by police.

If they’re under 18, it’s against the law:

  • For someone to sell you alcohol
  • To buy or try to buy alcohol
  • For an adult to buy or try to buy alcohol for you
  • To drink alcohol in licensed premises (eg a pub or restaurant)

However if someone is 16 or 17 and accompanied by an adult, they can drink (but not buy) beer, wine or cider with a meal.

If they’re 16 or under, they may be able to go to a pub (or premises primarily used to sell alcohol) if they’re accompanied by an adult. However, this isn’t always the case. It can also depend on:

  • The specific conditions for that premises
  • The licensable activities taking place there

It’s not illegal for a child aged five to 16 to drink alcohol at home or on other private premises. This does not mean it is recommended. We strongly advise an alcohol-free childhood, as recommended by the Chief Medical Officers.

It’s illegal to give alcohol to children under 5.

For more information:

Alcohol and Young People

Consequences of breaking the law 

If the police suspect someone under 18 has alcohol in a public place, they have the power to confiscate it. If young people get caught with alcohol three times they could face a social contract, a fine or arrest. Getting a criminal record could affect future job prospects and make it more difficult to travel to countries like the USA.

The police can also confiscate alcohol from someone, no matter what their age, if they believe it has been, or will be drunk by someone under 18 in a public place.


Useful Websites



For more information click on the logo