By now some of you might have seen the government’s new Â£10 million campaign highlighting the number of alcoholic units in drinks, which was launched because it was felt that people were underestimating the level of alcohol that they were consuming. Larger glasses and stronger beers and wines have become increasingly common, and this was an attempt to get people to estimate their consumption correctly.
There are two problems with this campaign.
The first is that one wonders whether Â£10 million of our money has been well spent on telling people to make sure that they actually know what they are drinking. Most people tend to realise when they have had a few, because alcohol has a physical and mental effect on you. People are not obliged to drink a particular amount, so there can be no complaint about glass sizes.
The second reason, and the more pertinent one, is that the information given out by the campaign (at least on the glossy television advertisements), is wrong. We are told that a pint of beer is three units, and that a bottle of wine is ten units. A few are, but most are not. The way to calculate the number of units in a drink is to take the strength percentage and multiply it by the volume of the glass (in millimetres), then divide by a thousand.
To take wine as an example, the strength is usually anywhere from 9.5% to 14.5%. So a 9.5% bottle at 750ml would yield 7.125 units, while a 14.5% bottle at 750ml would yield 10.875 units. For beer, the average pint (at 568ml) usually has a strength of 3.6% to 6.0%. At 3.6% a pint would contain 2.0448 units, while at 6.0% a pint would contain 3.408 units. Therefore there are significant differences in the number of units in a range of drinks one would find in most pubs.
The governmentâ€™s campaign is at best wrong and at worst counterproductive, as people will believe they know the alcohol content of their drinks without even bothering to check the percentage of the alcohol. All at a cost of ten million pounds. Nor are the recommended limits for men and women based on anything other than guesswork. A woman drinking one pint of Stella two times a week is classed as a binge drinker under these guidelines. Many Britons drink too much, but that is nothing to do with glass sizes, or not knowing the number of units; it is because they want to.
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Filed in: British Identity,Science