A new campaign by Public Health England (PHE) and industry-funded Drinkaware is urging middle-aged drinkers to have more alcohol-free days, as ‘a way of reducing their health risks’. The campaign marks the first time the two organisations have worked together.
The ‘Drink Free Days’ campaign is designed to be ‘clear to follow, positive and achievable’. A YouGov survey of almost 9,000 adults found that one in five people were drinking above the recommended guidelines, two thirds of whom said that they would find cutting down on drinking harder than other lifestyle changes such as taking more exercise or improving their diet. Middle-aged drinkers are more likely to be consuming more than the 14 units a week ‘lower risk guidelines’ than the population as a whole.
‘It’s all too easy to let our drinking creep up on us,’ said PHE chief executive Duncan Selbie. ‘While the link with liver disease is well known, many people are not aware that alcohol can cause numerous other serious health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease as well as several cancers. It’s also an easy way to pile on the pounds. About 10m people in England are drinking in ways that increases the risks and many are struggling to cut down. Setting yourself a target of having more drink free days every week is an easy way to drink less and reduce the risks to your health.’
However, chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance, Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, said that the alliance had ‘serious concerns’ about the campaign, and the ‘fact that it represents the beginning of a relationship between the alcohol industry and PHE. We strongly believe that the alcohol industry should not have a role in providing health information to the general public,’ he said.
PHE was making a ‘serious mistake in partnering with the alcohol industry’, he added. ‘Instead, we urge them to work with the wider public health community and others in persuading the government to take a more evidence-based approach to tackling alcohol harm.’