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Nova Scotia researcher calls for warning labels on alcohol

A Nova Scotia researcher is calling for warning labels on alcohol, similar to those that already exist on cigarette packages, even though there’s no evidence that liquor labeling works.

In an article in the Journal of Public Health Police published in November, researcher Mohammed Al-hamdani said the government should consider plainer packaging for alcohol.

He also recommended more visible warnings and using pictures.

However, he wrote, “studies on alcohol health warnings show that they do not have a strong effect on influencing recall, perceptions, and behaviors.”

“The warning labels themselves, there’s no evidence to show that they work,” MADD Canada CEO Andrew Murie told CityNews on Monday.

“We’re only behind things that have been shown to make a difference.”

In a statement, the LCBO said that labeling alcohol falls within the federal domain.

“Were the federal government to amend Canada’s Food and Drugs Act to require warning labels on beverage alcohol containers sold in Canada, LCBO would source and sell manufacturers’ beverage alcohol products that complied,” spokesperson Lisa Murray said.

The Beer Store referred comment to Beer Canada, whose president was against alcohol labeling.

Beer Canada would “absolutely not” support labeling, president Luke Harford told CityNews.

“When beer is consumed in moderation, it can be part of a healthy lifestyle. When people don’t drink in moderation, then it’s an issue,” he said, adding the comparison to cigarettes is wrong.

“We take exception to the tobacco approach … You can drink in moderation but you can’t smoke tobacco in moderation.”

Researcher Al-hamdani argued that previous studies were muddied because of poorly visible and “ambiguous” warnings, and the absence of photos. He’s calling for further study.

Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health has previously called for warning labels on alcohol, saying the direct and indirect costs of alcohol use in Ontario amounts to $2.9 billion annually.

In a list of recommendations released in June, CAMH called for the government to “implement mandatory alcohol warning labels on alcohol packaging that include topics relevant to alcohol use such as drinking and driving, the risks of underage drinking, and chronic diseases.”

Murie said he agrees with CAMH that “alcohol is the only kind of product that doesn’t have any kind of labeling on it – but should the warning be calories or how much you’re drinking?”

CAMH did not immediately return requests for comment.