In a report published on 10 January, the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee upholded the current daily responsible drinking guidelines of 2-3 units (8g) for women and 3-4 for men. The report is also happy with current guidelines for pregnant women and the Chief Medical Officers’ advice for those under the age of 18. The report recommends that specific additional advice for older populations could be formulated and a review of the existing evidence base by a balanced panel of medical disciplines considered.
The committee suggested that, ‘while public awareness of the existence of guidelines was high, a deeper understanding of what the guidelines were and of what a unit of alcohol looked like was lacking.’
Among the Reports conclusions are the following recommendations:
‘At a time when the Government is putting efforts into encouraging people to drink within guidelines, we consider that a review of the evidence would increase public confidence in the guidelines.
The review of the evidence base should be conducted by an expert group, including amongst its members civil servants and external scientific and medical experts from a wide range of disciplines, including representatives from the devolved administrations. The group should review:
a) The evidence base for health effects of alcohol including risks and benefits;
b) Behavioural and social science evidence on the effectiveness of alcohol guidelines on
(i) informing the public and
(ii) changing behaviour;
c) How useful it would be to introduce guidance on individual drinking episodes;
d) What terminology works well in public communication of risks and guidelines; and
e) Whether further research is needed, particularly for the alcohol-related risks to specific demographic groups (for example, older people).
The group should provide a recommendation to Government on whether the current alcohol guidelines are evidence-based, and if they are not, what the guidelines should be changed to.
We consider that the Government, industry and charities should emphasise in public communications:
a) The specific risks associated with drinking patterns, that is,
(i) the acute risks associated with individual episodes of heavy drinking and
(ii) the chronic risks associated with regular drinking;
b) That there are situations where it is not appropriate to drink at all, for example while operating machinery; and
c) That people should have some drink free days every week.’