Matt Lambert, CEO of the Portman Group, the alcohol social responsibility body and marketing regulator, said:

“The recommendation for variable guidance by age without context would be counterproductive, people will turn off from what they see is unrealistic and complex advice and stop engaging with moderate drinking messages. All the evidence shows that effective alcohol messages and labelling must be easily understandable and actionable.

“The recommendation that those under 40 should not drink at all is totally unrealistic – especially considering trends in the UK show that this age group is already drinking at lower and more moderate levels compared to older generations.

“It is interesting that the study backs up previous evidence of some health benefits of moderate drinking for people above 40, but we reiterate our view that people should not drink to improve their health.

“In the UK our best practice ensures that consumers are empowered to understand low risk drinking and are able to make informed choices. Our Code of Practice ensures responsible marketing in the UK which does not allege any therapeutic benefits from drinking alcohol.”



There has been over a decade of falls on many measures of alcohol-related harm in the UK, with persistent and sustained declines in overall population alcohol consumption and harmful drinking behaviours:

  • Since 2004, annual alcohol consumption in the UK has fallen by 15%[1].
  • In England, there has been a 25% drop in reported binge drinking over the last decade[2].
  • The proportion of drinkers who drank on five or more days in a week decreased by 16%, with the average number of drinking occasions now 2.8 days a week[3].
  • The moderate majority of UK adults (77%) either do not drink alcohol or stay below the UK Government’s lower-risk guidelines of 14 units per week[4].
  • Average weekly alcohol consumption amongst English drinkers is estimated to be around 11 units, well below the Chief Medical Officer weekly guidelines[5].


[1] WHO, May 2021

2 From 20% of English drinkers drinking in excess of defined as exceeding 8 (men)/6 (women) units on the heaviest day of drinking in 2009 to 15% in 2019. NHS England, December 2020

3 Decreased from 12% in 2014 to 10% in 2019, NHS England, November 2019

4 NHS England, December 2020 / Scottish Health Survey, September 2020/ National Survey for Wales, September 2020 / Health Survey Northern Ireland, December 2020

5 OHID: Wider impacts of COVID-19 on health monitoring tool, March 2022