Alcohol packaging warning messages

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A warning message, written in Italian, cautioning pregnant women not to consume this liquor

Alcohol packaging warning messages are warning messages that appear on the packaging of alcoholic drinks concerning their health effects. They have been implemented in an effort to enhance the public's awareness of the harmful effects of consuming alcoholic beverages, especially with respect to foetal alcohol syndrome and alcohol's carcinogenic properties.[1] In general, warnings used in different countries try to emphasize the same messages (see By country). Such warnings have been required in alcohol advertising for many years, although the content of the warnings differ by nation.

A World Health Organization report, published in 2017, stated:[2]

Alcohol product labelling could be considered as a component of a comprehensive public health strategy to reduce alcohol-related harm. Adding health labels to alcohol containers is an important first step in raising awareness and has a longer-term utility in helping to establish a social understanding of the harmful use of alcohol.

A 2014 study in BMC Public Health concluded that "Cancer warning statements on alcoholic beverages constitute a potential means of increasing awareness about the relationship between alcohol consumption and cancer risk."[3]


Increasing calls for the introduction of warning labels on alcoholic beverages have occurred after tobacco packaging warning messages proved successful.[3] The addition of warning labels on alcoholic beverages is historically supported by organizations of the temperance movement, such as the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, as well as by medical organisations, such as the Irish Cancer Society.[4][5] The impetus to add alcohol packaging warning messages to containers of alcoholic beverages "reflect[s] a growing evidence base relating to the relationship between alcohol consumption and a range of health problems including cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, overweight and obesity, liver disease, fetal abnormalities, cognitive impairment, mental health problems, and accidental injury".[3] Even light and moderate alcohol consumption increases cancer risk in individuals.[6][7] As of 2014, alcohol warning labels are required in many countries, including Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, France, Guatemala, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, Taiwan, Thailand, and the United States.[3] Modern alcohol advertising promotes alcoholic beverages heavily "as though it was not a toxic substance".[3] The alcohol industry has tried to actively mislead the public about the risk of cancer due to alcohol consumption,[8] in addition to campaigning to remove laws that require alcoholic beverages to have cancer warning labels.[9]

By country[edit]


In Australia, "Alcohol beverage makers must label their products with warning labels relating to the risks of drinking during pregnancy."[10][5]


Backed by the Irish Cancer Society, the government of Ireland will place warning labels on alcoholic beverages, with regard to alcohol's carcinogenic properties.[5][11]


Alcoholic beverages may not be advertised in a manner which directly or indirectly claims benefits or promotes its consumption, and may not show the product or its packaging.[12] All advertisements must also be accompanied by one out of five predefined warning messages, lasting at least two seconds for video advertisements or occupying at least 25 percent of the advertisement area for print media.[13]

United States[edit]

Since 1989, in the United States, warning labels on alcoholic beverages are currently required to warn "of the risks of drinking and driving, operating machinery, drinking while pregnant, and other general health risks."[14]

As of 2014, the current alcoholic warning message reads as follows:[3]

(1) According to the Surgeon General, women should not drink alcohol beverages during pregnancy because of the risk of birth defects.
(2) Consumption of alcoholic beverages impairs your ability to drive a car or operate machinery, and may cause health problems.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Wayne, O'Connor (27 September 2018). "Alcohol label 'will help prevent cancer' - Harris". Irish Independent.
  2. ^ "Alcohol labelling: A discussion document on policy options" (PDF). World Health Organization.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Pettigrew, Simone; Jongenelis, Michelle; Chikritzhs, Tanya; Slevin, Terry; Pratt, Iain S; Glance, David; Liang, Wenbin (3 August 2014). "Developing cancer warning statements for alcoholic beverages". BMC Public Health. 14 (1): 786. doi:10.1186/1471-2458-14-786. PMC 4133604. PMID 25087010.
  4. ^ Chandler, Ellen (2012). "FASD - Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder". White Ribbon Signal. 117 (2): 2.
  5. ^ a b c Finn, Christina. "Irish Cancer Society urges minister not to drop proposed cancer warning labels on alcohol products".
  6. ^ Cheryl Platzman Weinstock (8 November 2017). "Alcohol Consumption Increases Risk of Breast and Other Cancers, Doctors Say". Scientific American. Retrieved 13 November 2018. The ASCO statement, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, cautions that while the greatest risks are seen with heavy long-term use, even low alcohol consumption (defined as less than one drink per day) or moderate consumption (up to two drinks per day for men, and one drink per day for women because they absorb and metabolize it differently) can increase cancer risk. Among women, light drinkers have a four percent increased risk of breast cancer, while moderate drinkers have a 23 percent increased risk of the disease.
  7. ^ Noelle K. LoConte; Abenaa M. Brewster; Judith S. Kaur; Janette K. Merrill & Anthony J. Alberg (7 November 2017). "Alcohol and Cancer: A Statement of the American Society of Clinical Oncology". Journal of Clinical Oncology. 36 (1). Clearly, the greatest cancer risks are concentrated in the heavy and moderate drinker categories. Nevertheless, some cancer risk persists even at low levels of consumption. A meta-analysis that focused solely on cancer risks associated with drinking one drink or fewer per day observed that this level of alcohol consumption was still associated with some elevated risk for squamous cell carcinoma of the esophagus (sRR, 1.30; 95% CI, 1.09 to 1.56), oropharyngeal cancer (sRR, 1.17; 95% CI, 1.06 to 1.29), and breast cancer (sRR, 1.05; 95% CI, 1.02 to 1.08), but no discernable associations were seen for cancers of the colorectum, larynx, and liver.
  8. ^ Petticrew M, Maani Hessari N, Knai C, Weiderpass E, et al. (2018). "How alcohol industry organisations mislead the public about alcohol and cancer" (PDF). Drug and Alcohol Review. 37 (3): 293–303. doi:10.1111/dar.12596. PMID 28881410. S2CID 892691.[1]
  9. ^ Chaudhuri, Saabira (9 February 2018). "Lawmakers, Alcohol Industry Tussle Over Cancer Labels on Booze". The Wall Street Journal.
  10. ^ "Mandatory warning labels to be introduced on alcohol". Food & Drink Business. 15 October 2018.
  11. ^ "Cancer warning labels to be included on alcohol in Ireland, minister confirms". Belfast Telegraph. 26 September 2018.
  12. ^ "Alcohol Control Act B.E. 2551 (2008)" (PDF). The Office of Alcohol Control Committee. Government of Thailand. Retrieved 12 September 2017.
  13. ^ คลอดแล้ว 5 คำเตือนขวดเหล้า. Thai Rath (in Thai). 8 June 2010.
  14. ^ Boyle, Peter; Boffetta, Paolo; Lowenfels, Albert B.; Burns, Harry; Brawley, Otis (2013). Alcohol: Science, Policy and Public Health. Oxford University Press. p. 391. ISBN 9780199655786.