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Health warnings needed on alcohol

Health warnings on alcohol would help inform people about the risks they take by drinking it, says the Faculty of Public Health.

FPH is calling for health warnings to be printed on alcohol labelling to give people more information about the risks of drinking. There is evidence that such a move would increase people’s knowledge about the potential harm alcohol can cause.

It would also make it easier for people to understand the need for minimum pricing per unit of alcohol, which FPH supports. The government plans to bring in a consultation on minimum pricing this autumn.

Professor Mark Bellis, FPH’s spokesperson on alcohol, says: "At the moment, when people think about the dangers associated with alcohol, they are more likely to think of the problems caused by binge drinking rather than breast cancer. These health warnings would help educate the public and give them key information before they decide to buy a can or bottle of alcohol.

"The evidence linking alcohol to over 60 medical conditions is unarguable, so we need factual, not sensational, warnings to help the public understand the risks. People don't realise that drink is associated with a whole range of health harms and has potential long-term implications."

The type of warnings that alcohol labelling could include are:

  •  Alcohol is a drug that causes dependence
  •  Alcohol is a drug that causes addiction
  •  Alcohol increases risks of violence and abuse
  • Alcohol reduces fertility in men and women
  • Alcohol causes over 15,000 deaths a year in the UK
  • Alcohol increases risks of mouth, throat and other cancers

Professor Bellis continued: "The health messages that are most important for people to see are the ones that drinks manufacturers are least likely to want to put on their products. Ministers would need to stipulate the size of the warnings on the label of all cans and bottles."

Written: 16/07/2012 , last modified: 07/11/2012