Another week, another study warning of a risk of illness and disease from alcohol.
This time, the British Medical Journal has reported that even ‘light and moderate’ drinking, perhaps only a couple of drinks a day, could increase the risk of cancer.
Stay within the “recommended daily limits” and any risks will be minimal, the story reports.
There are so many of these stories that it’s very easy to ignore them. But this one stuck in my mind because it comes at the same time as a report in the journal Addiction which says that the suggested number of units – 2-3 per day for women, 3-4 for men – are utterly out of touch with the way we lead our lives.
(In case you’re wondering, you can work out the units of a drink by multiplying the total volume of a drink in ml by its ABV, then dividing that by 1,000. So if your drink is 5.2%, and you have a 500ml can of it…you have 2.6 units, according to my calculator. Or your daily allowance in one can, if you’re a woman).
It’s time for a change in how things are measured. Even if people possess the requisite mathematical skill to be able to work out what a unit is, the people of this country don’t sit at home at night and have two, and only two, beers each night. There isn’t a person out there that looks at the side of a can of cider and stops drinking because the can says they’ve reached their daily allowance.
Our culture is very much one of “going for it” at weekends and then having a few days off to recover. But two trends that run alongside this mean that the unit measurement is even more out of touch. The growth in wine consumption by the middle classes, and the growth of craft beer, that often has a higher percentage than the biggest selling commercial beer brands.
Who do consumers listen to, if not to units? What influences their drinking habits?
It’s time that communication focused on what happens in the real world. Talk in cans and bottles, talk of not “binge drinking” two days in a row. This would help smaller retailers help their consumers more, to help them give advice and look after their shoppers.