Health group: Put cancer warnings on alcoholic beverages

National News

Image: AP

(CBS News) — Consumer and public health agencies are calling on federal regulators to add new warning labels on alcoholic beverages to indicate they may cause cancer. 

“Government Warning: According to the Surgeon General, consumption of alcoholic beverages can cause cancer, including breast and colon cancers,” is the proposed new language. 

The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) said its aim is to increase the public’s awareness of the little-known link between alcohol and cancer. On Wednesday, it and more than a dozen other advocacy groups sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, urging the adoption of the new label. 

Less than half of American adults are aware of the connection, which amounts to a “crisis” in cancer prevention awareness, according to an American Institute for Cancer Research survey

“The disconnect between alcohol’s impact on cancer and the awareness of that impact should raise alarm bells,” said Thomas Gremillion, director of food policy at CFA. “The industry has succeeded in putting a health halo around alcohol. The government has the responsibility to give consumers the scientific information they need to make informed decisions about alcohol, just as it does with tobacco.”

The groups behind the plea highlighted the Surgeon General’s 2016 report showing the link between alcohol consumption and a variety of cancers. 

“Even one drink per day may increase the risk of breast cancer,” the report states.

While some studies suggest that moderate drinking carries health benefits, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that it’s impossible to conclusively link alcohol consumption to improved health outcomes. Roughly 90,000 Americans per year suffer from cancers that are associated with alcohol consumption.

The Alcoholic Beverage Labeling Act of 1988 requires that the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau consult with the Surgeon General to update the required warning statement if “available scientific information would justify a change in, addition to, or deletion of the statement.”

The health groups, including the American Institute for Cancer Research, the American Public Health Association and the U.S. Alcohol Policy Alliance, insist that existing labels warrant modernizing.

Some in the beverage industry are pushing back against what they call an “unwarranted” move, and even dispute the link between alcohol and cancer. 

The claim “flies in the face of mountains of prior research conducted over decades that links one or two drinks a day to modest health benefits — notably a lower risk of cardiovascular disease,” said Jackson Shedelbower, spokesman for the American Beverage Institute. 

He added, “Studies recently published that conclude otherwise often fail to control for confounding variables or present the data in a misleading way.”

The CFA proposes rotating the new warning message with existing alerts on bottles advising that women who drink while pregnant risk birth defects and that alcohol impairs one’s ability to drive a car or operate machinery. They cite research on tobacco warning labels showing that rotating the messages more effectively captures consumer attention. 

Jackson said that these kinds of cancer warnings “seek more to frighten than inform.”

Studies of similar measures taken in other countries show that government advice on alcohol affects levels of consumption. Alcohol consumption in Australia fell to 9.7 liters per person each year from 10.6 liters after the government in 2009 advised consumers to reduce drinking, according to the Wall Street Journal

A separate study on the effects of cancer warning statements shows that they produced “favorable changes in alcohol consumption intentions, including among high-risk drinkers.” 

A recent analysis shows that worldwide alcohol consumption fell 1.6 percent in 2018 compared to 2017. Nielsen data also shows that alcohol sales growth is slowing in part because of the rising popularity of wellness trends. 

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Recent Videos

Shiloh Christian Signing

Thumbnail for the video titled "Shiloh Christian Signing"

Century Girls Soccer

Thumbnail for the video titled "Century Girls Soccer"

Ward Co Facilities

Thumbnail for the video titled "Ward Co Facilities"

ND Golf Championship Early

Thumbnail for the video titled "ND Golf Championship Early"

ND Spring Golf Championship Late

Thumbnail for the video titled "ND Spring Golf Championship Late"

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2020 - KX Storm Team Evening Forecast - Dave Holder

Thumbnail for the video titled "Tuesday, June 2nd, 2020 - KX Storm Team Evening Forecast - Dave Holder"

In Loving Memory children's book

Thumbnail for the video titled "In Loving Memory children's book"

Pools Opening

Thumbnail for the video titled "Pools Opening"

Motorcycle Safety

Thumbnail for the video titled "Motorcycle Safety"

KX Storm Team #OneMinuteForecast w/Tom Schrader 6/2

Thumbnail for the video titled "KX Storm Team #OneMinuteForecast w/Tom Schrader 6/2"


Thumbnail for the video titled "RHDV"


Thumbnail for the video titled "MANDAN HOMICIDE"

Robert Suhr KX News 5:20am Forecast 6-2-20

Thumbnail for the video titled "Robert Suhr KX News 5:20am Forecast 6-2-20"

Robert One Minute 6-2

Thumbnail for the video titled "Robert One Minute 6-2"

New Salem Track & Field

Thumbnail for the video titled "New Salem Track & Field"

Troy Olson

Thumbnail for the video titled "Troy Olson"

Peace in Minot

Thumbnail for the video titled "Peace in Minot"

Canola Flea Beetle

Thumbnail for the video titled "Canola Flea Beetle"

Penny Sales Tax

Thumbnail for the video titled "Penny Sales Tax"

Fargo Cleaning Up

Thumbnail for the video titled "Fargo Cleaning Up"
More Video

KX News Trending Stories

Don't Miss

Daily Pledge

More Daily Pledge