A GO on a scratch card usually carries the promise of a big cash win, but health chiefs are using them for a more serious message.

Visitors to Oxfordshire pharmacies are being urged to answer three questions about their drinking habits on a scratch card.

The questions ask how often people drink, daily consumption and how often they drink six or more units – two pints of beer – at one time.

Each question gives a point score and users then turn over the card to be told whether they are low risk or to “watch out”.

Scratch cards have been sent to all 116 pharmacies by Oxfordshire County Council, responsible for promoting healthy lifestyles.

Among those taking part is Frost Pharmacies, which has branches in Marston, Headington and Banbury.

Owner Stuart Gale said: “It is just something we would bring up in conversation that might just spark a longer conversation and maybe raise people’s awareness. It is a way of breaking the ice.”

Pharmacies are ideally placed to give out messages about healthy living, he said.

He added: “We see people that the doctors don’t see. On average, patients visit pharmacies 13 or 14 times a year whereas they might see a doctor once or twice or not at all.”

About 40 people have so far taken part at Marston Pharmacy, Old Marston Road, showing a range of drinking habits.

He said: “It very much depends on the area.

“I think it is probably a bigger problem than it was with all these alcopops.

“What has changed is pharmacies are being used by health authorities and councils in this health promotion role.”

Trainee pharmacist Zoe Paine, 23, was among those to take the test, answering she has an alcoholic drink once a month or less; three to four units a month and never consuming six or more units at one time.

The card told her: “You are a lower risk drinker and are less likely to develop alcohol-related problems.”

She said: “I’m not really that into alcohol, it was what I was expecting.

“I just don’t like many alcoholic drinks. I enjoy going out for a couple of cocktails.”

Council cabinet member for public health Hilary Hibbert-Biles, said: “As people consider making changes for a healthier 2014, we want to explain why alcohol endangers our health and what can be done to avoid the risks.

“Working with pharmacy staff provides a great opportunity to do just this. They are respected professionals and customers may be receptive as they wait for a prescription or seek advice on other matters.”

Government guidelines say men should not drink more than three to four units a day and women two to three.