We’ve seen it with gun control, smoking, and even sugary-drink consumption. In addition, initiatives against violence, smoking, and obesity are often seen as overprotective measures that trample on our civil liberties, and imposed by the "nanny state." Researchers are now looking into whether such measures are effective, particularly with alcohol consumption.

New alcohol guidelines out of the United Kingdom are sympathetic to “the killing of joy,” and are using different tactics to deter people from overconsuming alcohol, according to researchers. "We should keep in focus the objective of alcohol policies: to reduce the blight without losing the delight that alcohol brings,” said Professor Theresa Marteau, Director of the Behaviour and Health Research Unit at the University of Cambridge, in a statement.

Marteau pointed out that Google Trends showed more searches for “alcohol and cancer” in the week these guidelines were published compared to the same week in 2015. She explained these new guidelines "are unlikely to have a direct impact on drinking. But they may shift public discourse on alcohol and the policies that can reduce our consumption."

Although similar Google Trends were not recorded for “alcohol and heart disease” or “alcohol and health,” Marteau is confident that reinforcing one negative association with alcohol "may weaken the influences of the many positive associations forged by alcohol marketing." These include a link between alcohol and sports and comedy, which tend to impact children as young as 10.

Very few people are opposed to government initiatives that provide information about health risks. Not surprisingly, that acceptance usually goes away when alcohol pricing policies come into play, especially among heavy drinkers. They would be more open to the government providing information or reducing alcohol advertisements.

Even so, Marteau said people "are more accepting of increases to a minimum price for a unit of alcohol when they see evidence of its effectiveness at reducing hospital admissions and crime related to alcohol, an effect seen in other policy domains such as obesity."

These new alcohol guidelines come less than a few months after experts in the UK started demanding clearer guidelines for women who question alcohol consumptions during pregnancy. While these new guidelines do not mention “alcohol and pregnancy” specifically, drinking while pregnant remains common in the U.K., Ireland, and Australia.

Source: Marteau T, et al. Observations: Will the UK's new alcohol guidelines change hearts, minds - and livers? The BMJ. 2016.