Safe Drinking Guides Not Working

Abstract; The concept of sensible drinking is not new and can be traced back to at least the 4th century BC. In the mid-to-late 1980s, United Kingdom policy converged on a safe limit of 21 units of alcohol per week for men and 14 units per week for women.

These were adopted into ‘The Health of the Nation’ that established targets for the reduction of those drinking more than these limits. In 1995, the Department of Health published a report entitled ‘Sensible drinking’ that promoted a daily limit of 3-4 units for men and 2-3 units for women.

Weekly and daily recommendations running in parallel have resulted in a confusing public health message. A decade later the ‘Health of the Nation’ targets have not been achieved: While the proportion of males drinking more than the weekly limits has remained the same around 28%, the percentage of women doing so has actually increased from 11% to 17%.

Clearly the sensible drinking message is not working but currently there is nothing better to replace it.

David Ball;  Richard Williamson; John Witton. In celebration of sensible drinking. Drugs: education, prevention and policy, Volume 14, Issue 2 April

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