back to article Britain ignores booze guidelines – heads for the pub

A University of Sheffield study has found that controversial new alcohol guidelines published in 2016 had no discernible effect on British drinking habits. "We cannot find any evidence of change in the COM-B determinants of drinking behaviour corresponding to the publication and promotion of the new lower risk drinking …

  1. ArchieTheAlbatross

    I'll drink to that!

    Well, its later Friday, someone had to say it.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: I'll drink to that!

      Afterwards, drop the empty bottles and the rest of the curry off at this boffin outfit.

  2. Josco

    Look away Nanny

    It's Friday and I'm going for a beer or two.

    Might have another tomorrow too.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Look away Nanny

      Raise a toast to the Nanny. If it had worked and some folks stopped drinking, it would have just left that much more for the rest of us.

  3. Blockchain commentard


    "and underage drinking (amongst eight- to 15-year-olds) has fallen by 67 per cent since 2003" probably due to those kids now being of legal age and the new batch of kiddie-drinkers can't afford a pint nowadays?

    1. adam 40 Silver badge

      Re: Shirley

      Their drug of choice comes from the dark web these days... paid for with bitcoin, and consumed in the park.

      The CMO is missing the point - and the health problems will surely show up in the coming decades when those addled brains go off their rockers.

    2. Blitheringeejit

      Re: Shirley

      I think it all went horribly wrong for under-age (or as I prefer to call it, "formative") drinking when ID was invented. I'm sooo glad I predated that.

  4. John Sager

    Shock! Great British Public not stupid!

    Looks like most people gave this advice the consideration it merited, i.e. none.

    1. Bob Wheeler

      Re: Shock! Great British Public not stupid!

      I gave the new guidance due consideration.

      And when I had stopped laughing I went for a drink, or two, emm three, well four maybe....

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Shock! Great British Public not stupid!

      It's really a moral issue, and people don't like other people trying to force their morals upon them, especially when those morals are more restrictive.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: Shock! Great British Public not stupid!

        But think of the bleeding heart pols you are offending by unheeding their advice!

        Imma going to cook up a fresh batch of outrage just for the occasion.

    3. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: Shock! Great British Public not stupid!

      I do tend to drink less these days, but that's not because the health warnings, it's because my hangovers are so much worse these days.

      I remember as a student being able to go out drinking all night every night, with naught but an occasionally sore head. These days three pints on an empty stomach can leave me (wishing I was) bedridden.

  5. Terry 6 Silver badge

    No safe level of anything

    Almost (maybe actually) every activity carries risk. Quantifying risk relative to sitting in a chair, wrapped in a duvet and sipping cooled boiled water is a nonsense.

    But there does seem to be a section of the public health lobby who seem determined to view any low risk that gives pleasure as unacceptably high. As in saying a glass of fruit juice shouldn't be 1 of the 5 a day because of its sugar content.

    1. Tim Brown 1

      Re: No safe level of anything

      Dammit we're all going to die!!!!!

      (someday )

      Do your best to enjoy life while you can and if you're making yourself ill or hurting others in the process you're probably doing it wrong.

    2. Semper Phoenix

      Re: No safe level of anything

      Oo, sitting is terribly lethal also, don'tcha know?!

    3. Oh Homer

      My body's natural defence against overconsumption

      Drink, fall over, pass out.

      See, can't drink any more!

    4. scrubber

      Re: No safe level of anything

      "1 of the 5 a day"

      Even a sensible person like you has fallen fallen for this pseudoscientific, policy based evidence nonsense. There is no 5 a day health benefit. It's simply the government taking what seems like a sensible idea and running with it without evidence which will ultimately lead to unintended consequences that could be worse than what they were trying to solve. Like taking fat out of foods leading to producers filling it with sugar which created the diabetes and obesity epidemic we see today.

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: No safe level of anything

        There is considerable evidence that increased levels of fruit and vegetable give improved medical status, improve internal biome and protection from a lot of disease etc.

        That being said, the point was that juice is being made into an enemy by the very health lobbyists who most promote this. Even juice with bits. Whereas having juice as one of the 5 a day at least encourages kids on the route, provides vitamins and hopefully even some fibre ( the bits) if parents don't let the kids be too fussy.

        However, I was in a big local authority meeting about promoting children's health a few years back. The Powers-that-Be insisted that our target had to be 5-a-day for every child. I argued, unsuccessfully, that we needed to put our energies into supporting a sensible target in our area. That every child had at least one portion. 5 might have been the guideline, but many of our kids never had any fresh food at all.

        I lost. Final outcome. Nothing achieved.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: No safe level of anything

          There is considerable evidence that increased levels of fruit and vegetable give improved medical status, improve internal biome and protection from a lot of disease etc.

          I was only discussing this with the wife yesterday. I love lots of vegetables but my gut is decidedly happier with a "bad" diet. There's a reason why every school kid knows the song "Beans, Beans good for the heart, the more you eat the more you F**t" and it isn't just beans that have that effect, whole swathes of the vegetable family have a similar effect.

        2. scrubber

          Re: No safe level of anything

          @Terry 6,

          I was simply meaning that there is no magic number. All things being equal, an increase in fruit and veg intake is generally beneficial to your health. However, back in the real world, parent being stressed about ensuring their kids have to have their "5-a-day" may lead to all kinds of unwelcome outcomes such as:

          * ironically malnutrition as poor parents spend more on fresh fruit and veg and don't have enough for a balanced diet;

          * obesity as parents ply well fed kids with various fruit juices and salads with calorific dressings;

          * children being taken away from parents who don't adhere to this magic "5-a-day"

          * eating disorders as children are forced to eat food they don't like/want

          * food shaming at schools

          * increased divorce rates as the pressure of adhering to 5-a-day causes parents to fight and busy parents also have less time together as they have to take longer preparing food.

          And that's just off the top of my head, I'm sure there are many more - but we haven't really looked into any of them, just as we haven't been given any scientific basis for why the number 5 was chosen.

    5. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: No safe level of anything

      "But there does seem to be a section of the public health lobby who seem determined to view any low risk that gives pleasure as unacceptably high."

      Yes, that's what was going to say. Many, many things which give pleasure or fun come with a level of risk. Remove all risk and you remove many of the pleasures of life. Not forgetting that people are different and have different ways of achieving pleasure. After all, some people derive please from sitting by a log fire reading poetry (might die in a fire or get cancer from inhaling the fumes) while other choose to hurl themselves down snow covered mountainside with planks attached to their boots.

  6. Stella Duvel

    And don't forget the tea...

    Which of course, fruit tea rots the teeth

  7. LucreLout

    I stopped listening...

    ..... when for reasons driven solely by political correctness rather than medicine/science/nature, they decided to equalise the limits between men and women, who clearly have different alcohol tolerances probably due to the generally heavier body weights of men.

    If you want to play politics, stay in the student common room, or go get a job at your political party of choice. Politics has no place in science, education, or buisness.

    Beer, because its time to send the hapless control freaks in the nanny state a message.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: "Politics has no place in science,"

      No, it does not. That hasn't kept politicians from trying to legislate the value of Pi, or, for a more modern aspect, trying to legislate backdoored encryption.

      The problem with politics is that the representatives are elected by idiots and, sooner or later, you'll have a lobbyist full of money who will come in and convince said representative that this suitcase is more important than his constituents. Either that or, just as likely, the politician will start believing in his own importance and convince himself that his opinions are the expression of God's Will and must be brought into being.

      There is no politician who will measure his actions against the Constitution and the law. That is so last millennium.

      1. You aint sin me, roit

        Re: "Politics has no place in science,"

        The problem is that the "representatives" are not representative, they are just the people who want to climb the greasy pole. Is the prime minister the person best suited to run the country? No, she is merely the person who floated to the top of the scum vying for the job.

        That's why science and engineering are virtually ignored by UK politicians - they all did PPE or law at university and don't have a clue. While people who do understand don't want to play the political popularity contest.

        1. Terry 6 Silver badge

          Re: "Politics has no place in science,"

          I can't completely agree. Most politicians start with ideals and good intentions, more often than not. Even in these days of the career politician. But the foundation in ideological belief (magical thinking even) in the "market" or Marxism or whatever plus confirmation bias and the compromises to gain small victories mean that logical, lucid policies stand little chance in the face of the realities of politics. Climbing the greasy pole starts as the means to an end, even if it becomes the end with the attrition of political life. Some, like Corbyn or Rees-Mogg, retain the ideal even if they lack the grounding in reality. But yes, some, like Boris, or May are just after power.

          I do agree that PPE doesn't seem to be a good basis for political understanding. Politics, Philosophy and Economics ought to be the way to understand government, but it doesn't seem to have worked out that way. And lets face it. If you're interested in engineering or science at age 21 you are most likely not going to be too interested in party politics and becoming an unpaid local councillor. And if you are a politically minded scientist I'd be a bit suspicious of you.

    2. Glenturret Single Malt

      Re: I stopped listening...

      In which case (presumably too hard to work out), why was the drink advice not given originally in terms of pints per (say) 20 kg of body weight?

  8. Dwarf

    Nanny State

    The people say Meh,

    Statistics are all very nice, but a +1% chance of X happening due to Y is just a risk and we all take risks each day - crossing the road, getting on a plane, eating that dodgy looking kebab.

    We've got to have something to look forwards to, whatever it is - going to the Cinema, buying that nice flash car, or just going out for a beer with your mates. If you take away the fun, then whats the point in it all ?

    Then we have to think, are the stats right, was the research done properly, is there an error somewhere in the data or maths that affects the results and results in new research next year that says exactly the opposite of the previous research.

    I might start listening more to Doctors / scientists more when they can avoid dying off. Until then, its a case of make your choices and live and die by those decisions - its your life, not theirs.

    1. dan1980

      Re: Nanny State


      I am against the 'Nanny State'. Where I live (NSW, Australia) they have gone so far as to restrict bottle shop ('off license') open hours. That's ridiculous.

      BUT, we have to ask what the reason for even having a state - and a government - is.

      I would argue that, in at its heart, the core benefit of a 'state' is to accomplish works for the good of the collective citizenry that would be difficult or impossible for individuals or even groups to accomplish otherwise.

      If you were to counter that they have clearly gone astray then I would be the first to agree with you but that core principal still does exist, even if it has been warped.

      Socialised health care - despite its problems and bureaucratic inefficiencies - is an excellent expression of this as it is, in general, good for society for people to be healthy. Healthy people can work, pay taxes (to fund other public goals) and look after their children. Healthy people are also, all other things being equal, happier.

      While some, including staunch libertarians, may argue that public healthcare is an intrusion upon the liberty of the individual, most people who have the benefit of such a system agree that it is a good thing for society.

      My point is that promoting good health in society is of benefit to the society as a whole. And, that being the case, campaigns to raise awareness about health issues in the public are not necessarily outside of that goal.

      There has to be balance, of course, as having a HAPPY population is also good for everyone and not all measures that might be undertaken to promote good health will have a positive effect on mood and overall satisfaction.

      The goal, then, has to be to provide sensible, sound advice based on solid evidence that, when followed, will yield an increased measure of both health and happiness in the population.

      On that count, it seems they failed.

  9. Anonymous Coward

    Slight correction

    Dame Sally is Chief Medical office for England, not the UK. Some parts of the UK have been ignoring drinking guidelines for years.

    --> icon

  10. Not also known as SC

    "If you remember, back in 2016..."

    Actually I'd forgotten all about this research as I imagine most other people have.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I would head for pub but most of our esteemed establishments are now shut. It's a good job we have ubiquitous sat nav because nobody would be able to find anything, gone are the days of directing someone with pubs. You can't use those poncy wine bars as most of the names are unpronounceable, "Take a left when you come to Terroirs" makes no sense at all.

    1. Blitheringeejit

      Closed Pubs

      >>most of our esteemed establishments are now shut

      Terribly terribly true of my youthful stamping ground in Stockport. For any mature readers seeking a blast of underage boozing nostalgia (especially those who grew up in urban areas where the losses are most acute), I highly recommend:

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Closed Pubs

        Never did quaffers but used to go in Volts and get smashed ending up spending most of the night in the room with the lights on the ceiling upstairs if I remember correctly after getting ripped off in the grand central. Small world.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well, isin't that a complete shocker. Who'd have thought?

    In other news, warnings that eating meat has statistical correlations to having cancer and that you should immediately give up meat to be a vegeterian for your heath also gets filed in the round filing cabinet under each desk.

    If drinking caused horribly sudden death then it would have been apparent 200 years ago when most people were by todays standards almost perpetually drunk. As reference note that the Royal Navy provided (for about a hundred years) eight pints of beer to it's sailors each day if in port (beer went off quickly in 1800 as no cooling existed) or one pint of wine or half a pint of rum when afloat, depending on what was available. The army provided similar amounts when their supply situation allowed (not as easy on campaign when your transport is horse+cart) and the general population also drank huge quantities by modern standards.

    If a decade or two of this level of booze intake caused all of the crew/army/general population to die off early then it fails to show significantly in historical records.*

    *the cause of shorter lifetimes is generally attributed to there being no retirement or pensions so you worked (generally in hard manual labour) until you couldn't do it anymore and then relied on your family to feed you. You'd probably die of preventable illness because your family couldn't afford a doctors services/medicines even when cures were available.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      200 years ago most people in the UK even young children were beer drinkers albeit very weak "small beer". Back then they didn't know why but by drinking beer that smelt and tasted right you were much healthier than drinking water which was often contaminated due to poor sanitation.

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

  13. Elmer Phud

    As the junkies battle their way to the pub in the snow . . .

  14. markowen58

    I'd be teetotal

    if my drunken exploits were recorded by multiple quite decent cameras and recorded for posterity on t'internet.

  15. Natalie Gritpants

    England’s Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davies

    is now looking like a damn silly Davies. Don't think I'll bother listening to anything she says in the future either.

  16. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    Great psychological move

    The extreme teetotals will nod wisely feeling vindicated in their obsession.

    The alcoholics will drink even more just to stick it to the man.

    Everyone else (recognising bullshit when they see it) will happily carry on as before.

    So, the country's entire population is happy.

  17. JakeMS


    .. is bad for you one way or the other.

    Meat can give you cancer, you must stop eating meat.

    You must eat meat otherwise you could get an iron-deficiency, or take some supplements, easier just to eat meat, we are naturally meat eaters.

    You should eat a diet with lots of fibre (no, not fibre optic... I mean stuff like peanuts etc).

    You should not eat too much fibre, it can cause severe, and in some cases life threatening issues. In addition you'll contribute to global warming by farting too often as fibre can give you gas.

    You should not drink alcohol, while it may be fun it can lead to addiction and give you health issues.

    You should drink some alcohol as it helps thin your blood which can, in moderation, lead to health benefits.

    Having sex can give you STDs, including HIV. It's best to avoid having sex altogether (Every man in the country yells at their screen)

    The Human race needs to breed in order to continue, you should have sex to reproduce. (Every man relaxes)

    You should not smoke cigarettes, it has tons of bad crap in it that your body should not have, you should quit by trying to Vape and reducing your nicotine levels and such.

    Don't Vape, if you must smoke, use real cigarettes, Vape machines can blow up in your face man.

    You should get fit and stay healthy by going for a jog.

    You should not run too often in your life, it can damage your knees.

    .... etc etc etc...

    See where this is going? If you listen to all the advice, you simply cannot do anything. Put bluntly, stay healthy in the way which suites you personally best, and sometimes having a bit of fun doesn't hurt too much so long as you keep it sensible and don't be stupid.

    Everything is bad for you, and you WILL die soon. But in the mean time, enjoy life, take some of the advice, but only that which you feel you'd like to really do.

    Don't let it get you down. Just enjoy what few years you have left!

    1. GrumpenKraut

      Re: Everything..

      > Don't let it get you down. Just enjoy what few years you have left!

      Advice heeded. ------->

    2. Teiwaz

      Re: Everything..

      The Human race needs to breed in order to continue, you should have sex to reproduce. (Every man relaxes)

      I think I read somewhere not long ago regular sex can stave off prostate cancer.....

      Wonder what non-regular sex does.....

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Everything..

        It causes sore backs.

    3. Oh Homer

      Re: Everything..

      Our Chief Medical Idiot needs to fess up that, despite our best efforts, there is still no cure for mortality, so her advice about what you should or shouldn't do, in some vain attempt to live forever, is just silly.

      Personally I consider it absolutely crucial that I don't lead a healthy lifestyle. The first fifty years was hard enough, if I have to do another fifty of those I'd go insane.

  18. Chris G

    Memories of 2016

    I had just read the article about there being 'No safe limit' for drinking alcohol.

    I looked wistfully at the bottle of Cune Gran Reserve on the sideboard thinking 'there's no safe limit'.

    So I drank it all!

  19. Zog_but_not_the_first

    So many questions...

    How do rates of cancer and cardiovascular disorders compare between populations using alcohol and those who don't e.g. Muslim?

    Why do the limits ignore biological differences between men and women?

    How do more complete lifestyle indicators throw light on causality attributed to alcohol e,g, good diet, exercise and alcohol consumption vs poor diet, sedentary and alcohol consumption?

    Was the research leading to the new limits "cooked"? El Reg passim.

    Why is alcohol described as having no beneficial effects? We've been doing it for over 5000 years. Stress relief? Social cohesion? And yes, I'm aware of the negative effects from excessive consumption.

  20. Terry 6 Silver badge


    Thank you for mentioning that.

    Vaping is free from many of the harmful effects of ciggy smoke. Yet there are health lobbies trying, and to some extent succeeding, in having it demonised or banned. This seems to stem almost completely from the basis of you can't prove it's 100% safe and it's enjoyable,so it must be bad. But these aren't the views of the lads in the pub, even though the level of logic is around the same (i.e.the "It stands to reason dunnit" level). It's professional health advocates.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No safe level of puritanical twats

    Just one can ruin a society.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    For anyone who cares about the facts

    "The Good News about Booze" by Tony Edwards

    (specifically the voluminous notes pointing to actual scientific papers)

  23. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

    I gave up the drink

    I wasn't intending to. It was just that, as life and circumstances changed, I drifted out of going for a beer then found I hadn't consumed any alcohol for a number of years. Which surprised me as, not so long ago, I could have been a contender if drinking were an Olympic sport.

    I am now on the other side of the fence, thinking I really should get some decent ale inside myself once in a while, that I'm probably doing more harm than good by not drinking.

    I have become that statistical anomaly who needs encouragement to drink rather than discouragement!

    1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

      Re: I gave up the drink

      @Jason Bloomberg

      I have become that statistical anomaly who needs encouragement to drink rather than discouragement!

      Get with the Vibe (and Gates) - go to something like a baseball game and drink light beer!

      "I am not a big beer drinker," he replied. "When I end up at something like a baseball game I drink light beer to get with the vibe of all the other beer drinkers. Sorry to disappoint real beer drinkers."

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I gave up the drink

      When I worked, I had a 'drinking problem', too. My job was often very frustrating, and I had to patiently put up with a lot of BS with a smile on my face. I tolerated it by promising myself a big glass of bourbon (or vodka) when I got home. By the time I got home, fixed dinner, read the mail, mowed the yard, paid bills, etc. it was time for bed. Then I realized I had forgotten about that drink.

      Now that I am retired (with a seven-figure retirement account) I am making up for it.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    As I said before

    When they started playing silly buggers with government drinking advice, I took to using the Shadowrun rules.

    By the Shadowrun rules, which I should warn people are fiction, every dry day is worth more than the one before, but there's less emphasis on how much you drink. A week dry is worth a lot.

    It makes as much sense as what the gummit spews out.

  25. Spanners Silver badge
    IT Angle

    Temperance != Abstinence

    A common mistake is for people who are completely against the drinking of alcohol to refer to themselves as being pro temperance.

    Temperance means moderation - a reasonable amount - considered use. For example Saudi Arabia is one of the most intemperate countries in the world. The USA, during the prohibition, was (officially) totally intemperate.

    There can be debates and guidance what it temperate - 2 units a week, 7, 14 or whatever but 0 is intemperate. If you do feel that 0 is the best option, use a better word.

    This site is going to be full of people who like precision. Coding, and IT in general, is hard without it. Anyone who is mentioned here saying temperance but meaning abstinence should have it put in inverted commas.

    1. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: Temperance != Abstinence

      Yes and no.

      "Temperance" movements often if not always campaigned for abstinence.

      People who want to ban things rarely seem to show temperance about banning things.

  26. unwarranted triumphalism

    Alcohol is safe and legal

    Cannabis is neither. It's a lethal addictive drug which destroys lives and families.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Something smelling fishy at The Register

    You obviously had Big Alcohol (or the IEA...?) holding your hand when you wrote this. It can be clearly recognised from the lazy, corporate arguments.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Something smelling fishy at The Register

      So you don't like the premise of the article, therefore we are in the pay of the alcohol industry? What's your agenda, Anonymous Coward?

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Something smelling fishy at The Register

      I rather got the impression the only thing in their hand when they wrote this was a pint.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Late into this one


    Almost everything is bad for people in large quantities, fruit, water, salt etc.

    On the other hand, we need a bit of all of these to work. People are biological and relatively inefficient with the benefit of adaptability. People are not machines to be dosed with precise quantities of chemicals for "perfect" operation.

    Cutting food groups out of your diet eventually will result in nothing being left at all.

    Managing a good variety of gut bacteria can make as much difference to your health as any other intervention, and they need a variety of foods to operate too. There is not enough research to "recommend" a selection of fauna, and I don't expect a stampede of people to rush for fecal transplants to correct them either.

    The old rule of "everything in moderation" remains fairly sensible, and does not end up with a lot of conflicting rules.

  29. Jtom

    These crusaders never learn. When I was young, most people (excuding the young and dumb), very carefully followed the speed limits. Everyone knew they were established based on safety. Then the nasty 1970s hit, and limits were arbitrarily lowered for non-safety concerns. The result wasn't that everyone reduced their speed; many, if not most, simply ignored the new limits, and have ever since.

    Now the public knows the alcohol guidelines are not based on true health studies, but on someone's personal crusade. The guidelines will now be ignored, and government may never have any credibility on this subject again.

    Here's something that doesn't get much press: many, many studies have conclusions that state something like, " the likelihood of dying from x increases by y% for those who do z." What is seldom reported are the overall mortality numbers, that is, how many of the test subjects died from ALL causes versus the control group. In a great many of these studies, there is no statistical difference in overall mortality, meaning that if those in the test group had not died from doing z, they would have died anyway from something else.

    1. Anonymous Coward
  30. Enarjay


    Clearly we proles need to be set an example. The entire Houses of Parliament complex must be designated an alcohol free zone with compulsory breathalyser tests on all MPs before being allowed to attend (and especially before any vote), compulsory tests on all senior civil servants and, of course, senior policemen.

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