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alcohol health alliance uk

Balance backs new CMO recommended drinking guidelines

Man drinking beer

Man drinking beer

Posted 08/01/16

Balance, the North East Alcohol Office, has welcomed the Chief Medical Officer’s (CMO) recommended tightening of drinking guidelines announced today (Friday 8th January).

Colin Shevills, Director of Balance, the North East Alcohol Office, commented: “The new CMO recommendations are a positive step forward. The changes are based on strengthening evidence of the link between alcohol and cancer, even when alcohol is consumed at relatively low levels. Around four in 10 North Easterners are drinking at risky levels, but worryingly, awareness of the associated risks to health is still very low.

“People have a right to know that alcohol is in the same cancer causing class as tobacco and the health risks increase even at low levels of consumption. Only by being aware can people make informed choices about how much alcohol they choose to drink.

“There is now no justification for recommending drinking on health grounds, as there is a weakening of the evidence to suggest alcohol provides any protective effects for the heart. The new guidelines also clarify the risks of drinking in pregnancy.

“Industry self-regulation doesn’t work – the Government needs to introduce compulsory health warning labels on alcohol products and alcohol advertising and to adequately fund mass media campaigns which make it clear the risks people face and enable them to make informed choices. We know the majority of North Easterners back the introduction of health warning labels as standard on alcohol products.”

As part of the new recommended guidelines, the CMO has said it is safest to avoid drinking in pregnancy, a message which has been warmly welcomed by organisations representing parents whose children are affected by Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, which encompasses a range of conditions caused by being exposed to alcohol in the womb.

Maria Catterick, from the FASD Network UK, said: “We are delighted that the CMO is amending the guidelines to state no alcohol in pregnancy. At FASD Network UK we know of thousands of families who are raising children affected by Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), a permanent disability caused by prenatal alcohol exposure.

"This exposure can cause damage to organs and in particular the brain and central nervous system. It also affects children's educational, social, emotional and behavioural wellbeing which has a permanent and devastating impact on the children and families and places massive demands on health, education and social care provision. All children deserve the best start in life and no alcohol from conception and throughout pregnancy is a great foundation to achieve that.”

Dr Tony Branson, Medical Director of the Northern England Cancer Network, also welcomed the new advice: “Strengthening medical evidence of the link between low levels of alcohol consumption and cancer, as well as weakening evidence to suggest any protective elements from alcohol consumption, reinforces the fact that drinking should not be recommended for health reasons.

“Alcohol is in the same cancer-causing category as tobacco and asbestos. It affects our bodies in a number of ways which can increase the risks of developing at least seven different types of cancer. It damages cells, changes hormone levels, impacts on existing medical conditions and worsens the damage caused by smoking.

“It's vital that we continue to educate people on the health risks so that they can assess their consumption and, if appropriate, take steps to reduce how much they drink. I fully support the new guidelines and add my backing to calls for the Government to make health warnings on alcohol products compulsory and to adequately fund mass media campaigns to make people more aware of the health risks. Any measures which have the potential to help reduce the number of avoidable cancers here in the region have my support.”