Industry attacks on new alcohol guidelines put profit before public health

9 Dec 2020

New guidelines for alcohol consumption will help Australians understand the serious health effects of drinking alcohol, and industry attacks on them have no credibility, AMA President, Dr Omar Khorshid, said today.

Woman holding an alcoholic beverage

The updated Australian Guidelines to Reduce Health Risks from Drinking Alcohol, released by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), recommend that healthy people drink no more than 10 standard drinks per week.

The previous Guidelines allowed for 14 standard drinks per week.

“Drinking alcohol has a range of health effects, both in the short and long term,” Dr Khorshid said.

“Many Australians are unaware that alcohol consumption can contribute to cancer and cerebrovascular, cardiovascular, liver and digestive disease.

“It’s important that these Guidelines are not interpreted as ‘safe’ or ‘allowable’ levels of alcohol consumption, but as a way to reduce your level of risk.

“As the NHMRC says, people drinking alcohol within the Guidelines lower their risk of dying from an alcohol-related disease or injury to one in 100. Not drinking alcohol at all is the best way to reduce your risk of alcohol-related harm.

“The response of alcohol industry groups to the updated guidelines has been to attack the NHMRC’s credibility.

“The AMA respects the NHMRC’s systematic and rigorous approach to the evidence review and believes that this approach has clearly held the health of Australians as its highest priority.”

The Guidelines recommend a limit of no more than four standard drinks on any one day, and that children younger than 18 years, pregnant women, and women who are planning to become pregnant should not drink alcohol at all. Breastfeeding parents are advised that not drinking alcohol is safest for their baby.

The AMA supported the updated Guidelines in a submission to the NHMRC in February.

The AMA Position Statement, Alcohol Consumption and Alcohol-related Harms, is here.