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The latest public health advice for alcohol: Don’t drink at all

How many pints have we had?
How many pints have we had?
Image: Reuters/Paul Hackett
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Put down that drink. The British have issued tough new guidelines on drinking, saying that any amount of alcohol can increase the risk of cancer.

The UK’s chief medical officer now recommends people drink a maximum of 14 units of alcohol a week, which is the equivalent of six pints of beer or seven glasses of wine, and warns against binge drinking; it also suggests days with no alcohol at all. The previous guidelines—issued in 1995—had recommended 21 units for men and 14 for women, and had no recommendation for avoiding alcohol.

The new recommended UK guideline for men is one of the strictest in the world, with the upper limit now lower than the drinking guidelines in Ireland, Denmark, New Zealand, and Spain.

The latest advice does away with the notion of a safe level of drinking, rejecting studies that have previously linked health benefits, such as protecting men from heart disease, with moderate drinking.

Critics accused officials of “scaremongering” the public with their “nanny state” tactics, but England’s chief medical officer defended the new advice, which she insists is based on “hard science.” This is despite British drinking rates dropping in recent years—a recent survey suggested that young people are drinking much less than previous generations.

So much for that glass of red wine a day, then.