In the UK cigarette’s have carried a Government health warning, in it’s simplest form, since 1971. These warnings were increased in size in 1991 and then again in 2003 so that now 40% of the packaging display is covered. Plus in 2008 the graphic picture warnings were introduced.
What does this have to do with alcohol you may be asking? Well I guess my question is – why doesn’t booze carry the same kind of warning? See, if you check the list of many of the warnings now given on cigarettes (which you can see listed here) many of them are equally applicable to alcohol.
So why doesn’t a bottle of wine, spirits or can of beer carry the message ‘Drinking is highly addictive, don’t start’ or ‘Drinking when pregnant harms your baby’? High blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, cancer, impotence and reduced fertility, aging of the skin, premature death? Booze will do this too not just the fags.
Alcohol is carcinogenic because alcohol (ethanol) is metabolized in the liver, where it produces acetylaldehyde, a chemical that the International Agency for Research on Cancer has designated as a carcinogen (this was in 1988). Alcohol creates the greatest cancer risks in the upper respiratory tract, liver, colon, rectum and breast as found in a meta-analysis of 229 studies of cancer in 19 sites of the body (source).
Now you could argue that these statements only apply if you are a heavy drinker but the same could be said for cigarettes. The more you smoke the greater the risk, right? So I just wonder when it will be that these warnings will replace the existing somewhat ambiguous, and often tiny part of the advertisement, ‘drink responsibly’ message currently displayed on alcohol. And what does that mean exactly anyway?
By using a personal responsibility message the cynical might argued that the supplier of the product is putting the onus on the consumer not the manufacturer. How else would a court be able to consider criminalising a women who drinks during pregnancy and causes harm to her child? This completely avoids the issue of the nature of the substance being addictive. Now if the bottle of wine that a pregnant women picked up to drink stated clearly that consuming it would harm her child then it could be argued that she was culpable but it does not.
Cigarette’s also carry the message that ‘Your doctor or your pharmacist can help you stop smoking’ or ‘Get help to stop smoking: consult your doctor/pharmacist’. Pity alcohol doesn’t have these health advice message’s too …….
Edited to add: Alcohol Justice in the US released this on 26th Feb ‘There is no determined safe limit for alcohol consumption with regard to cancer risk’ and ‘daily alcohol consumption of as little as 1.5 drinks accounts for up to 35% of alcohol-attributable cancer deaths in the United States’. Read more here: http://alcoholjustice.org/press-room/press-releases/988-alcohol-is-a-leading-cause-of-cancer-even-with-moderate-use.html