On March 11th 2019, the Scottish Government launched Count 14, a national alcohol public information campaign. The campaign aims to raise awareness of the recommended alcohol limits, as research shows only around a fifth of people in Scotland (17 per cent) know what they are.

The ‘Count 14’ awareness campaign has been developed to demonstrate what 14 units actually means in terms of alcoholic drinks, in a bid to encourage people to think about how their weekly drinking adds up.

A unit is the best way to describe the quantity of pure alcohol in a drink. Fourteen units is the equivalent of six pints of medium strength beer, lager or cider, six medium glasses of wine or seven double measures of spirits.

The guidelines, revised in 2016, also highlight that if people do regularly drink around 14 units per week, it should be spread over three days or more, with some alcohol free days.

Research to support the campaign interviewed 840 Scottish adults.  The research found only 17 per cent aware of the 14-unit-a-week limit and revealed Scots bought enough alcohol for every adult to drink nearly 20 units of alcohol a week.

It also showed that half of people (53 per cent) in Scotland agree they don’t really think about the amount of alcohol they drink. However, 57 per cent agree that monitoring the amount of alcohol they consume is important, and over a quarter (27 per cent) stated they are looking at ways to try and cut down the amount they drink. 

Chief Medical Officer Dr Catherine Calderwood said: “The guidelines are based on scientific evidence on the short and long term impacts drinking alcohol has on health.

“Regularly exceeding the recommended maximum amount can lead to serious problems, including cancer of the mouth, throat and breast. If men and women limit their alcohol intake to no more than 14 units in a week, it keeps the risk of developing these conditions low.

 “This important campaign has launched not only to make people aware of the guidance, but to help them understand what 14 units means in terms of what they drink, so they can make informed choices and reduce the risk of harm.”

Public Health Minister Joe FitzPatrick said: “Scotland has a troubled relationship with alcohol. Last year, Scots bought enough alcohol for every adult to drink nearly 20 units of alcohol per week. This means that, on average, every adult in Scotland is drinking 40 per cent more than the lower-risk guidelines of 14 units per week.

“Through the measures in the Alcohol Framework, our aim is to create a cultural shift toward a more balanced relationship with alcohol across our society. That needs to start with people having an understanding and awareness of what they are drinking on a weekly basis, and the impact that is having on their health.

“Sticking to the recommended maximum guidelines, and spreading drinking over three days or more, can lower the risks of harm. I hope as a result of increased awareness through this campaign, people start to consider how their drinking is adding up.”

Scotland’s Alcohol Framework 2018: Preventing Harm was launched in November 2018, which set out the Scottish Government’s national prevention aims on alcohol.