Press release

Don’t let drink sneak up on you

New campaign launched tonight, will expose that drinking slightly over the lower-risk alcohol guidelines can seriously impact long term health

People will be warned that they are at risk from serious illness including heart disease, stroke and cancer if they drink just a little bit more than they should, the Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said today.

A brand new nationwide Change4Life campaign launched tonight (Sunday), will expose that drinking slightly over the lower-risk alcohol guidelines can seriously impact long term health.

Tonight while people recover from their weekend excesses or wind down with a glass of wine at home, the new TV adverts will go out for the first time.

The advert highlights that regularly drinking around two large glasses of wine or two strong pints of beer a day triple the risk of developing mouth cancer and double the risk of developing high blood pressure.

A shocking new survey has revealed that most people are unaware of the serious illnesses caused by drinking more than the guidelines.  For example:

  • 85 per cent of people did not realise it increases the risk of developing breast cancer;
  • 66 per cent did not realise it increases the risk of bowel cancer;
  • 63 per cent did not realise it increases the chance of pancreatitis;
  • 59 per cent did not realise it increases the risk of mouth, throat and neck cancer;
  • 30 per cent did not realise it increases the risk of high blood pressure; and
  • 37 per cent did not realise it reduces fertility.

A new online calculator will be available on the Change4Life website to help people check how much they are drinking and work out whether they need to cut down.  Two million leaflets will also be available for Change4Life supporters and health professionals around the country.

The campaign also offers handy hints and tips on how people can cut down - such as having booze free days, not drinking at home before people go out, swapping to low-alcohol or alcohol free drinks and simply using smaller glasses.

Secretary of State, Andrew Lansley said:

“It’s crucial we support people to know about how drinking too much poses risks to their health and how they can take control of their drinking.”

“It can be easy to slip into the habit of having a few extra drinks each day, especially when drinking at home. But there can be serious health risks.  Don’t let drinking sneak up on you.”

“That is why I am launching this campaign, to alert people that it is not just binge drinkers that damage their health.  There are simple ways we can all cut down how much alcohol we drink if we need to.”

“Change4Life is a fantastic, well known campaign, that has already helped a million families around the country. I want to expand it beyond eating well and moving more, so people look after themselves and really do live longer.”

Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame Sally Davis said:

“Drinking too much is a major public health issue. This campaign highlights how easy it can be to use a glass of wine or beer to unwind at the end of a busy day but these drinks stack up and can increase your risk of high blood pressure, cancer or liver disease.”

“The campaign with its new online calculator is available on the Change4Life website to help and encourage people to check how much they are drinking and if they find they are drinking over the guidelines, can help them cut down.”

Dr Mike Knapton, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation, said:

“An estimated 10 million Brits drink more than the recommended limits for alcohol, which puts one in five of us at increased risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and weight gain.”

“There’s absolutely no reason why we can’t all enjoy our favourite tipple in moderation, but don’t underestimate the health risks when one glass becomes two or three on a regular basis.”

“Understanding your alcohol limits, using the new Change4Life calculator, will help you work towards a healthy lifestyle and a healthy future.”

Sarah Lyness, Executive Director of policy and information at Cancer Research UK, said:

“Alcohol can increase the risk of seven types of cancer, including two of the commonest kinds - breast and bowel cancers. And a recent study showed that nearly 12,500 cancers in the UK each year are caused by alcohol.”

“The risk of cancer starts to go up even at quite low levels of drinking, but the more people cut back on alcohol, the more they can reduce the risk. Small changes can really make a difference - so try swapping a glass of wine or beer for a soft drink or having a few alcohol-free days a week.”

Notes to editors

1.    The lower-risk alcohol guidelines are that men should not regularly drink more than three to four units a day and women should not regularly drink more than two to three units a day.

2.    Drinking heavily regularly on just one or two days a week can also be harmful to your health in the long term.

3.    The campaign will run for six weeks from Sunday 5th February.  TV adverts will be shown in between popular evening programmes on Sundays, Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

4.    The survey was conducted by YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 2,123 adults.  Fieldwork was undertaken between 9-12 December 2011.  The survey was carried out online.  The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults aged 18 and above.

5.    For further information, supportive quotes or to view a copy of the TV advert please contact the Department of Health press office on 020 7210 5221.

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