Binge drinking boosts cancer risk, British health officials warn
Tougher guidelines could be hard to swallow for a nation where having a pint is a hallowed tradition
With alcohol rated as one of Britain's biggest health problems and binge-drinking revellers causing mayhem in city centres every weekend, health chiefs said no level of drinking could be considered safe.
"Drinking any level of alcohol regularly carries a health risk for anyone, but if men and women limit their intake to no more than 14 units a week it keeps the risk of illness like cancer and liver disease low," said Sally Davies, the Chief Medical Officer for England.
One picture taken in Manchester which showed police arresting a suspect with a man in the background lying prostrate in the road reaching for a bottle of beer went viral on social media, with suggestions it had similarities to paintings by the likes of William Hogarth and Italian master Caravaggio.
Prime Minister David Cameron, who often entertains visiting leaders in a local pub, considered the possibility of minimum alcohol prices to cut down excessive drinking but the government rejected the plan in 2013, saying there was not enough evidence it would be effective.
It also says pregnant women should drink no alcohol at all, another revision from the previous guidelines which suggested a small amount was safe.
The British recommendations are similar to those suggested by U.S. health officials in new advice issued on Thursday but stricter than the guidance from many other European countries.
The Canadian low-risk drinking guidelines recommend no more than two drinks a day, 10 per week for women, and three drinks a day, 15 per week for men, with an extra drink allowed on special occasions.
"It also means that UK men are now being advised to drink significantly less than their European counterparts," Portman Group Chief Executive Henry Ashworth said.
However, critics said the guidance was an over-reaction and figures showed alcohol consumption in Britain had been falling.
Christopher Snowdon, Head of Lifestyle Economics at the Institute of Economic Affairs, accused the health chiefs of ignoring evidence which showed moderate drinking reduced the risk of heart disease and the overall risk of death.
"People deserve to get honest and accurate health advice from the Chief Medical Officer, not scaremongering."
"But frankly if we choose to enjoy a few drinks four or five nights a week after a hard day at work, whether it slightly shortens our lives or not, so what," he told LBC radio.
With files from CBC News