Aprominent campaigner says fresh guidelines warning people not to drink more than 14 units of booze a week is a ‘rocky road to prohibition’.
Roger Protz, editor of the Campaign for Real Ale’s 2017 Good Beer Guide, believes the advice from medical officers is too strict – and fears a total clampdown could end up being enforced on any alcohol consumption.
Mr Protz says sensible and moderate drinking instead needs to be encouraged.
But leaders in Portsmouth – which has the second highest rate of hospital admissions related to alcohol intake in the south-east – believe the public need to be aware of health risks associated with heavy boozing.
Portsmouth Tory adult social care boss, Cllr Luke Stubbs, said he had ‘some sympathy’ with Mr Protz’s comments, agreeing the limit ‘seems a little on the low side’.
However, Cllr Stubbs added that ‘there is a delicate balance to be struck between excessive drinking and the nanny state’ and that people need to be sensible and not drink to extremes.
This year’s Beer Guide – a celebration of the finest UK pubs – argues the new recommended limits are ‘out of kilter’ with other countries; including Ireland and Denmark – 21 units – the US and Canada – 25 units – and Spain – 34 units.
‘Are the Spanish a nation of falling-down drunks?’ Mr Protz said.
‘On the contrary. We are advised to adopt their healthy Mediterranean diet, which includes wine and beer.’
Greg Clark, landlord of The Golden Lion, said a person’s BMI should be a factor in how much someone should drink.
He said: ‘I could have a guy in who’s 15st or 16st who metabolises the alcohol totally differently to a 5ft 1in young lady.’
Mr Clark says he promotes education surrounding alcohol and unit limits as a better solution to the issue and ‘would like to see limits not imposed but rather the right to choose’.
But Mr Protz said: ‘The Good Beer Guide urges people to drink sensibly and moderately – and to do their drinking in company in the pub.
‘But the restrictions urged by the medical officers are taking us on the road to prohibition.
‘Men used to be told to drink no more than 21 units a week. Now it’s 14 units.
‘What will the advice be in a few years’ time – no units at all?
‘All the real scientific evidence shows that moderate beer drinking can contribute to a healthy lifestyle. We should listen to the experts – not the killjoys of the Temperance movement.’
THE PUBLIC HEALTH VIEW
COUNCIL officials overseeing Portsmouth’s health issues have questioned whether recommended new alcohol guidelines are appropriate.
City Conservative councillor David Tompkins, who is the vice-chairman of the city council’s health, overview and scrutiny panel, said: ‘I think it’s a bit strict for the average guy.
‘It’s not very realistic for most people.
‘But there need to be limits imposed.
‘Fourteen units equates to about seven pints of beer – a lot of guys can take that on a Saturday night quite easily.’
But when asked if that was a harmful lifestyle choice for people to make, Cllr Tompkins said: ‘They are probably affecting their health, according to the guidelines.
‘I have got an 87-year-old in my constituency who has been drinking all his life and he is fine.
‘There are a good number of smokers in their 70s, on 30 cigarettes a day, and they are fine.
‘I think it all just depends on the person and what they can take.
‘People just need to think about what they can realistically handle.
‘We need to listen to our friends about our limits and how we react to alcohol.
‘For example, I go out with my friends and have a few beers, and no-one gets hurt.’
Cllr Tompkins, who has represented Portsmouth’s St Jude’s ward since last year’s local elections, said more needs to be done to champion local pubs, describing them as a ‘vital social lubricant’ which shouldn’t be put to blame for many drinking problems blighting society.
Cllr Tompkins agreed there were issues with people who sit at home and drink alone after stocking up on booze at their local supermarket.