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Will alcohol soon have cancer warning labels like cigarettes?

The future of alcohol labelling is being discussed in government spheres again due to health organisations in Australia calling for reform.

According to reports in the national press, beer and wine bottles could soon have health warning labels, similar to cigarette packaging.

The discussions, which have begun due to the Australian government is seeking ways to raise awareness about the health risks linked to alcohol consumption at the same time as health bodies are pushing for warning labels to be added to drinks packaging is nearing a conclusion.

The move, if actioned, would force alcoholic drinks companies to include warning labels on bottles and cans about alcohol raising the likelihood of cancer, heart disease, liver disease and other health issues.

The organisations pushing for the change are the Australian Medical Association, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioner, and the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE).

Speaking to Nine Newspapers, assistant minister for health and aged care, Ged Kearney has revealed that the idea is being considered and explained: “The Australian government recognises the importance of labelling to raise consumer awareness of, and seek to prevent, alcohol-related harms.”

AMA resident professor Steve Robson echoed that the addition of labels would be beneficial in informing people about alcohol harm and added: “The AMA has been calling for many years for alcohol products to have simple, clearly visible front-of-pack labels that warn consumers of the health risks of excess consumption. Warning labels on the effects of alcohol can help consumers make better choices, improving their health and reducing the pressures on the health sector that are directly related to excessive drinking.”

RACGP president Dr Nicole Higgins also insisted that there needed to be “better information and support” about the risks with alcohol as it contributed to a “heavy disease burden in Australia”.

Despite the push from the health lobby, an Alcohol Beverages Australia spokesperson argued against the warning label idea and pointed out that “health data is complex and can’t be reduced to a label”.

Last spring, the drinks business reported on a new study, which appeared to support decreasing the “social acceptability” of drinking by adding prominent health warnings to alcohol labels. However, the industry’s regulatory body bit back, lambasting the research as “disproportionate”.

Additionally, back in February 2022, db reported on how the European Parliament voted on whether to adopt the recommendations of a beating cancer report where it mulled including health warnings mandatory on wine – among other proposed measures for alcoholic drinks in Europe, showing that the issue is far from being ignored.

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