Imbibers who down strong alcohol cans of low-cost "chuhai" to get drunk quickly risk damaging their health, experts warn.

Canned chuhai, an alcoholic drink made by mixing shochu with soda water or soda pop that sells for only 100 yen (90 cents) or so, has been rapidly increasing in popularity in Japan.

Drinkers tend to consider it a “light alcohol” drink because of its strong fruity taste, the soda's freshness, and its colorful can design. But the alcohol base is shochu or vodka, and the strong type sold in supermarkets and convenient stores in Japan contains between 7 percent and 9 percent alcohol.

A 350-milliliter can of 9 percent chuhai contains about 25 grams of pure akinesia, topping the “appropriate amount of alcohol a day” limit of about 20 grams the health ministry says is safe to consume.

Health officials say people are apt to drink too much of it due to its casual image.

Chihiro Nakata, a doctor at the Jiyu Clinic in Tokyo who treats people for alcohol dependency, said patients used to say they often drank sake in glass cups or shochu in pet bottles, but more and more tell him they drink countless cans of strong chuhai. Many of them consume it in 500-ml cans.

“My impression is that many patients diagnosed as alcohol dependent drink the strong-type alcohol,” Nakata said.

Women who drink the strong beverages should be especially cautious, Nakata said.

“It depends on the individual, but women’s metabolic ability is about half of men’s, so they need to be careful.”

Canned chuhai, highballs and cocktails are also known as “RTD,” or “ready to drink,” and don't require customers to mix them with soda.

Chuhai first became popular for its low-alcohol content. Though chuhai with 5 percent alcohol or so was once the norm, strong types now dominate.

They captured half the sales of the RTD market in 2017, almost double from four years ago, said research firm Intage Inc. Currently, 9 percent chuhai leads the market, but 12 percent chuhai, the same alcohol level found in wine, was also sold in 2018.

Kirin Co.'s 8 percent “Hyoketsu Strong” started the trend in 2008.

“In 2008, the desire to save money was strong in Japan due to the influence of the financial crisis triggered by the collapse of U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers,” said Takashi Nagoune, a marketing officer at the Tokyo-based beverage company.

“Just drinking one can hits the spot and is a good deal at about half the price of a can of beer, which responded to the needs of customers in the period,” Nagoune said.