The new guidelines on alcohol consumption should be less prescriptive and 'genuinely reflect the principle of informed choice', the RSS has recommended in its response to a Department of Health consultation.
The RSS says that the guidelines 'should acknowledge the minimal risks of the recommended low levels of alcohol consumption' and that focus should also be given to the higher-risk levels of consumption, such as 35 units per week for women and 50 for men. It recommends that the low-risk threshold be set as an ‘aspirational’ target, while acknowledging there is a trade-off against the perceived benefits of moderate levels of alcohol consumption.
The RSS response also points out that setting a limit of 14 units a week for both men and women gives the misleading impression that men and women have the same resilience to alcohol.
The Society acknowledges that the government 'has a complex task in communicating complex statistical information to the public' and suggests that infographics, such as the following, could help communicate the nuances of the level of risk involved.
Weekly consumption - Women
Weekly consumption - Men
|35 units or above||50 units or above||Unacceptable, high risk - must reduce from this level|
|14 to 35 units||14 to 50 units||Try to reduce to 14 units or as low as you can|
|14 units or below||14 units or below||Broadly acceptable, low risk|
The RSS president Peter Diggle and president-elect David Spiegelhalter wrote to the health secretary in January this year, urging the DH to ensure that the guidelines properly reflect the statistical evidence, and David Spiegelhalter has written a blog post on the subject.