Patterico's Pontifications


The Art of Legal Intoxication Safe Drinking in Britain

Filed under: Political Correctness — DRJ @ 6:21 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]


A British physician who helped establish the Department of Health intoxication safe drinking guidelines 20 years ago admits the recommendations had no scientific basis:

Guidelines on safe alcohol limits introduced 20 years ago were no more than an “intelligent guess”, according to reports.

The Department of Health continues to recommend that men should drink no more than 21 units of alcohol per week, and women should drink no more than 14 units. But the guidelines, first introduced in 1987, had no firm scientific basis, according to a report in The Times newspaper.

Richard Smith, a member of the Royal College of Physicians working party that produced the recommendations, told the paper the limits were prompted by “a feeling that you had to say something”. He said: “Those limits were really plucked out of the air. They were not based on any firm evidence at all. It was a sort of intelligent guess by a committee.”

The committee’s epidemiologist had confessed that “it’s impossible to say what’s safe and what isn’t” because “we don’t really have any data whatsoever”, Mr Smith said.”

This may also explain why the Brits banned guns.

UPDATE: Thanks to Itsme who noted the article concerns safe drinking levels rather than intoxication levels.


11 Responses to “The Art of Legal Intoxication Safe Drinking in Britain”

  1. It also explains July 4, 1776.

    nk (6e4f93)

  2. That’s so funny it deserves two Hehs.

    DRJ (67ced6)

  3. Fairly typical of most government pronouncements I’d say.

    Thomas Jackson (bf83e0)

  4. Hi DRJ.

    I guess I’m confused. Is it an intoxication level or just a limit on how many drinks per week is healthful?

    Itsme (5ec76d)

  5. Itsme,

    It’s the latter and it seems I confused the two. I’ll figure out how to correct it. Thanks for the heads up – or maybe I should say “Bottoms up!”

    DRJ (67ced6)

  6. Cheers !

    Itsme (5ec76d)

  7. How big is a unit? It must be based on alcohol content. Pint of rum, yard of ale?

    Hazy (c36902)

  8. It might be the scientist in me, but what is the definition of “units”? I’d guess it’s one beer, one glass of wine, or one shot of liquor. None of the links provide this rather important info. If so, 21 beers a week seems like quite a lot.

    Dean (4f19ea)

  9. I’m pretty sure they don’t suggest this all be done on Saturday. No, you should have your allotted three martinis every evening before dinner. Assuming you remember dinner.

    Kevin Murphy (0b2493)

  10. I think this is the definition of a unit:

    A unit of alcohol equals 10mL (1cL) by volume (8g by weight) of pure alcohol and equates to:

    * Half a pint of moderate strength beer
    * A glass of wine – approximately 125mL of 8% alcohol by volume(abv)
    * A standard measure of spirits.

    For stronger strength alcohol, the volume in a unit would be proportionately less. The unit content of a drink is calculated from the formula: Volume (mL) X % alcohol (abv)/1000. Therefore a half litre (500mL) can of strong lager (8%) contains 4 units of alcohol.

    DRJ (67ced6)

  11. Units of Measure:
    Is that a half-pint based on the Imperial Gallon, or an American (SAE) Gallon?

    Another Drew (8018ee)

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