Yes, you heard it correctly. And not by a little, either. Currently government advice is that women should drink no more than two or three units of alcohol a day and no more than 14 units a week. Men should imbibe no more than three or four units a day and no more than 21 units in a week.
However, in an article for BMJ Open, Peter Scarborough and three co-authors, all researchers in the department of public health at Oxford University, suggest a limit of half a unit a day. Now one unit is measured as 10ml or 8g of pure alcohol. Which is one 25ml single measure of whisky (40% ABV), or one third of a pint of beer (5-6% ABV) or half a standard (175ml) glass of red wine (12% ABV).
So the new suggestion is for no more than about a sixth of a pint of beer. What? I know. It’s an idea so daft even Jeremy Clarkson would have thought twice before coming out with it. The “reasoning” behind it is that it could save 4,600 lives a year.
Now saving all those lives sounds great. But haven’t we been here before? Minimum pricing, anyone? And, as usual, looking at the details raises some doubts. They’re basing this figure on alcohol’s supposed link to 11 diseases. But it can only be a very minor factor in deaths from stroke, diabetes and epilepsy, for example.
And, once again, this sounding of alarm bells conveniently ignores the fact that alcohol consumption has been declining for a long time. As Henry Ashworth, chief executive of the Portman Group pointed out: “Drastically cutting everyone's consumption to half a unit a day – that is, one large glass of wine a week – is not the way to reduce harms in the small group who misuse alcohol and need specific and targeted help.”
The only upside of this nonsense seems to be that it is a step too far even for fake charity Alcohol Concern. It’s not often they rush to the defence of the beleaguered drinker. But even they were forced to admit that “the focus of the guidelines must be to gain the maximum acceptance by the drinking public, and to offer a realistic way of reducing the risks associated with drinking."
Meanwhile, I have submitted my own proposed guidelines for a maximum pricing policy and a recommended minimum daily alcohol intake.