To anyone who has woken up wearing a traffic cone, wondering where the previous 18 hours went, the news there is no so such thing as a safe level of alcohol to consume will not come as any surprise.
As if January is not a grim enough month already, the decision by the nation’s chief medical officers to dramatically reduce the recommended number of units of alcohol which men should consume is enough to make members of the five o’clock club drop their pork scratchings in disgust.
In a fresh victory for equal opportunities, the hairier sex is being advised that 14 units of booze a week – the equivalent of six pints – is all that should be passing their lips should they wish to meet with their quack’s approval.
This reduction from 21 unit brings them into line with women drinkers.
On top of this we have been urged to have alcohol-free days and to avoid going on weekend-long benders as well as being told no amount of booze can be deemed safe.
Sensibly, mums-to-be are told to ditch the bottle completely, although, in my experience, most do this as a matter of course.
Meanwhile women over 55 are almost encouraged to indulge as science suggests that five units a week is good for middle-aged, female hearts.
While there will be some, presumably in between supping a lager while necking a whisky chaser, who will describe this latest intervention as a classic example of the Nanny State, it should be welcomed, particularly as it is the first time in 21 years that the guidelines have been reviewed. Medical evidence now suggests that alcohol consumption increases the risk of cancer, a pernicious disease which we have done so well to combat over the past two decades, meaning anything we can do to prevent its spread throughout society should be welcomed.
Will these latest guidelines make a difference?
Clearly the public health boffins at the NHS hope it will. I should imagine they intend for their message to stick with the health conscious among us who will sink a glass or three of Pinot Grigio on a Friday evening as they tuck into homemade mushroom and spinach ravioli. But, I should imagine, that the hardened drinkers among us – we all know a few – will raise barely a drooping eyebrow at the news.
The everyday drinkers – the red-faced chap you see perched at the bar every lunchtime as you walk passed the pub – and the fearless youngsters who blow a family’s weekly food bill on a single night out are the people the Government should be targeting.
These people cost our health service a fortune in the long run and, while there have been steps to do away with discount offers in both bars and supermarkets, it is still relatively cheap to get trollied with a bottle of wine the price of a decent portion of fish and chips.
The softly, softly approach will only go so far with those who really need help, but it is inconceivable that brewers will be forced any time soon to stick pictures of tumours on the side of a six pack.
The main priority needs to be getting this message to young people and teenagers who think they are invincible and that boozy nights and rotten hangovers are the hallmark of a life well lived.
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