Proceed with caution – the meteoric rise of zero-alcohol drinks

New Research from Flinder’s University has revealed that parents are feeling confused, conflicted and concerned when it comes to zero-alcohol beer, wine, and sprits and adolescents.

Whilst alcohol-free alternatives are popular with adults choosing to cut back on their alcohol consumption or quit altogether, there is a grey area when it comes to teenagers says Nathan Harrison from the National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction (NCETA), College of Medicine and Public Health.

“We already know that conversations around alcohol can be uncomfortable and tricky to broach, especially when it comes to teenagers,” says Mr Harrison, who led the latest research published today in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health.

“Now parents face the additional challenge of navigating zero-alcohol drinks that look, and taste, like the real thing.

“Our research found that parents feel like they don’t have enough information to make an informed decision, and are conflicted on whether alcohol-free alternatives are suitable, healthy or possibly harmful for teenagers.

“Parents are sometimes confused by zero-alcohol drinks.  They wonder if giving them to their children might normalise alcohol, because these drinks look so similar.  As a result, around half of the parents we spoke to were concerned that these drinks could result in increased alcohol consumption,” says Mr Harrison.

Researcher Dr Ashlea Bartram  from the College of Medicine and Public Health led recent research  that analysed the views of over 1100 parents, finding that those who are confused about alcohol guidelines for adolescents were are more likely to provide zero-alcohol products to their teenagers.

Dr Bartram says that parents face considerable challenges in setting boundaries and navigating conversations surrounding alcohol with their teenage children.

“Research has shown that delaying the introduction of alcohol to children can reduce the likelihood of binge drinking and alcohol-related issues later in life.

“This underscores the importance of parental guidance and intervention in shaping healthy behaviours and decision-making regarding alcohol consumption.

“Many parents want to do what they can to minimise harms from alcohol to their children.  For now, we advise a precautionary approach and recommend that parents do not provide zero-alcohol drinks to their adolescents.

“We know that they are not intended for consumption by children, and we would like to see steps towards preventing children and young people from accessing and consuming these products going forward,” she adds.