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The OPHA is a not‐for‐profit member‐based association that provides leadership in advancing public health in Ontario. Our Association represents six public and community health disciplines and our membership represents many public health and community health professionals from Ontario. To learn more about us, our structure, strategic direction, or membership, please visit the following links:

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The OPHA leads the development of expertise in public and community health through collaboration, consultation and partnerships. Learn more about our Constituent Societies here.

The OPHA leads the development of expertise in public and community health through collaboration, consultation and partnerships. Learn more about our Constituent Societies here.

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Alcohol Labels Can Help Inform Consumers on Alcohol Use


Alcohol Labels Can Help Inform Consumers on Alcohol Use

Alcohol Labels Can Help Inform Consumers on Alcohol Use
October 4, 2018
Labelling on alcoholic beverages is not a new concept. However it is surprising that Canada has one of the least stringent labelling policies and programs compared to other countries in the world. Only Yukon and Northwest Territories require labels that warn consumers about risks of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) if alcohol is consumed during pregnancy. In 2017, when Yukon piloted a study to also include alcohol as a cancer risk factor on alcohol labels, the project was halted prematurely by pressures from the alcohol industry.
 
Alcohol and tobacco are comparable in terms of harms and risks in that they both cause cancer and a range of diseases affecting every body system. Despite this, the alcohol industry is being held to a different standard than the tobacco industry when it comes to marketing and labelling.  It was not that long ago when there was a similar debate about warning labels on cigarettes. Graphic health warnings now cover 75% of cigarette packages and have contributed to decreased rates of smoking in Canada.
 
Furthermore, nutrition labelling became mandatory nationally for all prepackaged foods in 2007, and Health Canada has proposed new regulations for warnings labels to be included on packaged foods that contain high saturated fat, sugar or sodium in the future. Currently, beverages in Canada with an alcohol content of more than 0.5% are exempt from having nutritional facts displayed. Why should alcohol be held to a different standard than other foods and beverages when it comes to warning labels and nutritional facts? The public has a need and a right to understand the products they are purchasing and consuming to make informed and healthier choices.
 
The concurrent lack of health warning and nutritional labels on alcohol has social, ethical and health concerns. Additionally, increased availability and accessibility of alcohol promotes normalization, hinders public health prevention efforts, and strains the healthcare system and other sectors. Labelling of alcoholic beverages is an opportunity to address the knowledge gap between what consumers know and what is required to make informed decisions about alcohol consumption. Canada’s leadership as the first country in the world to implement graphic picture warnings on cigarette packages was exemplary.  Canada can take the lead again with standard warning and nutritional labels for the country’s favourite drug.


 
 
References
 
Canadian Institute for Health Information. (2017). Alcohol leads to more hospitalizations than heart attacks do in Canada. Retrieved from https://www.cihi.ca/en/alcohol-leads-to-more-hospitalizations-than-heart-attacks-do-in-canada
 
Canadian Institute for Health Information (2018). Alcohol harm on the rise for Canadian women. Retrieved from https://www.cihi.ca/en/alcohol-harm-on-the-rise-for-canadian-women
 
International Alliance for Responsible Drinking. (2018). Health warning labeling requirements. Retrieved from www.iard.org/policy-tables/health-warning-labeling-requirements/
 
Canadian Partnership Against Cancer. (2018). Provincial/territorial alcohol policy pack. Retrieved from https://www.partnershipagainstcancer.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/provincial-territorial-alcohol-policy-pack-en.pdf
 
Public Health Agency of Canada. (2015). Alcohol consumption in Canada. Retrieved from  http://healthycanadians.gc.ca/publications/department-ministere/state-public-health-alcohol-2015-etat-sante-publique-alcool/alt/state-phac-alcohol-2015-etat-aspc-alcool-eng.pdf
 
Huang, J., Chaloupka, F.J., & Fong, G.T. (2014). Cigarette graphic warning labels and smoking prevalence in Canada: A critical examination and reformulation of the FDA regulatory impact analysis. Tobacco Control, 23(1), 7-12. http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2013-051170
 
Taylor Blewett, Whitehorse Star, Yukon alcohol label study will no longer include warnings of cancer link. https://business.financialpost.com/pmn/business-pmn/yukon-alcohol-label-study-will-no-longer-include-warnings-of-cancer-link

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