Academic journal article Perspectives in Public Health

Should Alcoholic Drinks Be Ordered and Served in "Units"?

Academic journal article Perspectives in Public Health

Should Alcoholic Drinks Be Ordered and Served in "Units"?

Article excerpt

Dear Editor,

According to the UK Faculty of Public Health's position statement on "Alcohol and Public Health",1 alcohol is a potentially addictive psychoactive substance. Acute harm can result from alcohol-related accidents, injuries and suicide. Alcohol is a major contributory factor to violent crime, including domestic violence. Chronic harm related to alcohol misuse includes liver cirrhosis, high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, pancreatitis and mental health problems; it can also increase the risk of developing liver, mouth, oesophageal, pharyngeal, breast and colorectal cancer.

Alcohol use and misuse is widespread in the UK. In 2007, it was estimated that 72% of men and 57% of women in England had an alcoholic drink on at least one day during the previous week.2 Furthermore, 41% of men and 35% of women exceeded the daily recommended health limits on at least one day in the previous week. The UK Department of Health currently recommend that men should not regularly drink more than 3-4 units of alcohol and women more than 2-3 units on a daily basis; 1 this includes at least two alcohol free days per week. The recommended maximum weekly totals are 21 units for men and 14 for women.

Alcoholic strength varies widely. A pint of strong lager contains three units whereas a small measure of spirit (25ml) contains one unit.1 A standard glass of wine (175ml) at 12.5% alcohol represents 2.2 units, whereas "alcopops" are about 1.5 units. With so many different drinks and glass sizes, from shots, pints, to bottles, it is very easy for the public to get confused about how many units are in their drink.3

A simple and practical solution to this is that we move from ordering and serving alcoholic drinks in pubs, bars and restaurants in measures such as "pints", "bottles", "glasses", "shots" etc to simply ordering and serving in alcoholic "units". …

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