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RSPH calls for cigarette-style warning labels on alcohol drinks

Published 29 January 2018

UK-based independent, multi-disciplinary charity, The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH), is urging drinks manufacturers to add health warnings and calorie content to the front labels of all bottles to raise public awareness of alcohol effects.

In its Labelling the Point report, the RSPH proposed a new approach to the way alcoholic drinks are labeled in the UK.

The charity said action is required to increase public awareness of the effects of alcohol on health as less than one in six people (16%) are aware of the government’s low-risk alcohol guidelines, only one in ten aware of the link between alcohol and cancer, and 80% unable to correctly estimate the calories in a glass of wine.

RSPH’s proposed scheme includes mandatory inclusion of the government’s low-risk drinking guidelines, with the suggestion that a cigarette-style warning of the link between alcohol and health conditions such as bowel and breast cancer be added.

It also wants a drink-drive warning and calorie counts, which could encourage consumers to choose lower strength drinks.

Research has suggested there could be about a 20% swing to lower abv alcohol if young people realized the high calorie content of their drinks.

The recommendations are based on a survey of about 1,800 UK adults, which RSPH carried out with the Portman Group, the alcohol industry standards body.

RSPH chief executive Shirley Cramer said consumer health information and warnings are now mandatory and readily available on most products from tobacco to food and soft drinks, but alcohol continues to lag behind.

Cramer said: “If we are to raise awareness and reduce alcohol harm, this must change.

“Our research demonstrates the potential contribution better labelling could make to a healthier drinking culture, especially for younger drinkers and those from more deprived backgrounds who value clear health information the most. As Britain exits the EU, we ask that any additional regulatory freedom be used to strengthen that contribution – not to diminish it.”

In September 2017, RSPH supported Communities in Charge of Alcohol, a program which was rolled out across Greater Manchester to tackle the rise in alcohol consumption throughout the region.


Image: RSPH proposes new labelling scheme to tackle alcohol health awareness vacuum. Photo: courtesy of the Royal Society for Public Health.