From Mr Andrew Barr

Sir: We now know that the Government believes that it is safe for us to drink slightly more each day than it has been telling us for the last eight years, and that most doctors disapprove of the change ("Advice is out of step with medical opinion;" "We don't need one more drink," 13 December). Now we know why they dislike it. In his letter of 15 December, Professor Prichard of the Institute of Alcohol Studies - the educational arm of the United Kingdom Temperance Alliance - claims that "There is much evidence to suggest that alcohol problems in society rise in proportion to the overall level of consumption". Well, if you believe that, you probably also believe you can reduce the damage done by alcohol by persuading people to drink less on average - by keeping their consumption below a notional "safe limit". That is what doctors believe, and that is why they set the "safe limits" at such a ludicrously low level that the Government has been embarrassed by all the research about the link between moderate alcohol consumption and a reduced risk of heart disease into changing them. Yet it has never been proved that a direct link exists between the number of alcohol-related problems and the average level of alcohol consumption in any given society, nor even explained why such a link should exist.

Yours sincerely,

Andrew Barr

London, NW6

15 December

The writer is author of "Drink: an Informal History".

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