England's drinking limits based on guess

Oct. 20, 2007 at 9:57 AM

LONDON, Oct. 20 (UPI) -- The guidelines for estimated safe levels of alcohol consumption guiding England’s health policy are based largely on an educated guess.

England’s Royal College of Physicians said in 1987 that men could consume 21 units and woman 14 units of alcohol per week before realizing adverse chronic health effects. That level guided health policy for the past 20 years.

There is one unit of alcohol in a typical glass of wine.

Richard Smith of the Royal College of Physicians told the Times of London the 1987 recommendations were “not based on any firm evidence at all. It was a sort of intelligent guess by the committee.”

The 1987 levels were prompted by growing concerns over the long-term chronic health effects caused by heavy drinking.

A government commissioned report issued last week relied on the 1987 levels to place England’s middle-class wine consumers in the “hazardous drinking” list, the Times reports.

A group of health organizations, including the Royal College of Physicians, is considering recommending a 10 percent tax increase on alcohol and imposing stricter guidelines on the alcoholic beverage sector.

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