Balance backs new alcohol guidelines

New recommended guidelines have been issued.
New recommended guidelines have been issued.

Balance, the North East Alcohol Office, has welcomed the Chief Medical Officers' recommended tightening of drinking guidelines announced today.

The UK's Chief Medical Officers (CMO) have launched new alcohol drinking guidelines following a comprehensive, independent review, the first to be carried out in 20 years. The clear guidance is based on the latest evidence that alcohol causes cancer, on balance provides no health benefits and should be avoided during pregnancy or when trying to conceive.

The new recommendations are:

A new weekly guideline. For men and women, you are safest not to drink regularly more than 14 units per week, to keep health risks from drinking alcohol to a low level.

Alcohol-free days. If you do drink as many as 14 units per week (the equivalent to half-a-bottle of whisky) it is best to spread this drinking over three days or more. If you have one or two heavy drinking sessions, you increase your risks of death from long-term illnesses and accidents and injuries.

No alcohol consumption during pregnancy. Women who are pregnant, or planning a pregnancy, should be advised that the safest approach is not to drink alcohol at all.

Colin Shevills, director of Balance, said: "The new CMO recommendations are a positive step forward. The changes are based on strengthening evidence of the link between alcohol and cancer, even when alcohol is consumed at relatively low levels. Around four in 10 North Easterners are drinking at risky levels, but worryingly, awareness of the associated risks to health is still very low.

"People have a right to know that alcohol is in the same cancer causing class as tobacco and the health risks increase even at low levels of consumption. Only by being aware can people make informed choices about how much alcohol they choose to drink. There is now no justification for recommending drinking on health grounds, as there is a weakening of the evidence to suggest alcohol provides any protective effects for the heart. The new guidelines also clarify the risks of drinking in pregnancy.

"Industry self-regulation doesn’t work – the Government needs to introduce compulsory health warning labels on alcohol products and alcohol advertising and to adequately fund mass media campaigns which make it clear the risks people face and enable them to make informed choices. We know the majority of North Easterners back the introduction of health warning labels as standard on alcohol products."

Penny Spring, director of public health for Northumberland, said: "Northumberland suffers from high levels of harm caused by alcohol and the new guidelines are based on the latest evidence that people's health can be damaged when alcohol is consumed at relatively low levels. People have a right to know the link between alcohol and diseases such as cancer and it is critical that they are made aware of these guidelines so they can make an informed choice about how much they drink.

"I especially welcome the clear advice that no drinking during pregnancy or when trying for a baby is the safest option, a change of advice which we have been calling for in the North East for some time."