Page last updated at 11:24 GMT, Monday, 9 March 2009

Australian alcohol rules 'safer'

By Phil Mercer
BBC News, Sydney

A pint of beer
Many Western countries have a binge drinking problem

Australians will be better protected from disease and injury by new alcohol guidelines that drastically reduce safe drinking levels, health charities say.

Charities have said the updated advice would significantly reduce the risk of mouth, throat, bowel and liver cancer.

The government has halved the daily recommended consumption for men. Under 18s and pregnant women are being urged not to touch alcohol.

Almost 3,000 Australians are diagnosed with alcohol-related diseases per year.

Of those, about half die as a result of their illnesses.

In a country with such a boozy reputation, the new government guidelines will be a sobering reminder for many Australians about the dangers of alcohol.

They are being advised to consume no more than two standard drinks a day - a standard drink contains 10g of alcohol. For men, this cuts in half previous safe drinking levels.

Kathy Chapman from Australia's Cancer Council says moderation is the key.

"Certainly these guidelines have not said that people have to give up drinking altogether but we do as a community need to look at the fact that we are a heavy drinking community, and what can we do to lower the risk," she says.

The National Health and Medical Research Council, which has drawn up the guidelines after three years of consultation, said it was confident that Australians would embrace its tough approach to drinking.

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