Alcohol bottles and cans need labels

With the CCSA saying more than two drinks a week is a risk, we need to make a cultural shift away from excessive drinking

Alcohol should have warning labels. (Claudia Culley)

Alcohol should have warning labels. (Claudia Culley)

Alcohol needs warning labels, just like those on cigarette boxes. The Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) released a report in January saying having more than two drinks a week is risky. The study showed even small amounts of alcohol overtime could lead to several different forms of cancer, which means decreasing alcohol consumption is necessary. 

The problem is alcohol’s prevalence in our society. Most alcohol is sold as a social drink to young people, which makes them socialized into drinking. A study by Prevention Action Alliance  found young people drink one per cent more alcohol for every ad they see compared to the median age. Another study from BMC Public Health found exposure to alcohol ads increases young people’s tendency to drink.

Such advertisements do work as 79 per cent of people above the age of 15 in Alberta drink to some extent. This more so affects college students as there’s a correlation between the money alcohol brands spend on advertising and college student’s recognition of such brands. This shows the power media and socialization have in shaping our behavior.

This is not to say people should not consume alcohol or that its purchase or consumption should be restricted. As Canadians, we have a right to do as we please, so long as it doesn’t harm others, according to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. However, we also have a right to protection. The Canada Consumer Product Safety Act prohibits labels that misleads the safety of a product. We don’t need to ban alcohol, we need to mandate advertising and labeling to remind consumers of the risks.

Drinking isn’t a problem in moderation, but our society doesn’t promote moderation with alcohol. Several hit songs promote overconsuming alcohol, whether it be “Shots” by LMFAO or any Jimmy Buffett song. This does have an effect on people’s behavior as 14 studies have found exposure to alcohol marketing, such as brand mentions or promotions mentioned in a song, increases the tendency for young people to drink alcohol or drink more.

With a deep social connection to alcohol, this is causing huge burdens on society. The repercussions of drinking alcohol costs every Canadian $1,098 a year, according to Statista. It also damages the people drinking. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), five per cent of the global burden of disease stems from alcohol misuse. 

When our society encourages reckless drinking, it affects everyone, especially the consumers.

By labeling alcohol, people will face a constant reminder of the consequences. Studies by canFASD found labels help to shift culture away from reckless drinking. Simply put, warning labels work. Another study found 70 per cent of people who quit smoking say warning labels were highly influential in this decision. 

As a society, we need to accept that Rick James won at hedonism, accept we can’t beat him, and then make a cultural shift away from excess. As the saying goes, “do not do anything too much or too little.” Yes people will always be drinking, but it shouldn’t be everyone all the time.