Should packaged alcohol display health warnings?

Bookmark and Share Deregulation Unit, Health and Food | Tim Wilson
Sydney Morning Herald 10th March, 2012

Mandated alcohol warning labels don't work and perpetuate the government-sponsored drift away from individual choice and responsibility that fuels alcohol abuse.

Our society is built on principles protecting our rights to choose our own life. That requires us to accept responsibility for our actions. Every time the government steps in we promote a nanny state that infantilises individuals.

Compromise on these principles requires evidence that good intentions will work. Alcohol warning labels don't fit the bill.

We all know there are health consequences from heavy drinking.

People choose to drink alcohol; and sometimes it is to the point of abuse to get drunk.

If that is someone's objective, they won't slow down from a warning label.

The objective of such regulations is to de-normalise consumption, placing government preference above individual choice.

It is straight out of the regulatory playbook targeted at another product disliked by public health campaigners.

Publicly released sample alcohol warning labels include: ''drinking alcohol increases your risk of developing cancer'' and ''drinking alcohol damages the young developing brain''.

The parallels are clear, despite contrary protests of campaigners.

On ABC1's Lateline, a public health campaigner, Michael Daube, claimed his push for text-based alcohol warning labels was ''a mile away from the kind of grisly warnings that go with cigarette packs''. He continued: 'These are informative warnings, but they're not designed to put people off drinking completely.''

These statements are misleading and, as president of the Australian Council on Smoking and Health, Daube knows it.

As the shock value of text-based labels reduced, their graphic nature increased, coupled with other tight regulations. We can expect the same for alcohol.

Warning labels are only one more step down the nanny state path of government directing behaviour.

No one disputes that alcohol consumption has consequences. We've known that for at least 2000 years. Anyone who has had a few glasses of wine within an hour has figured that out.

The right direction is to create a culture of responsibility where people are free to choose, make mistakes and learn from them - not look to government for permission when it fosters a culture of us not taking responsibility.

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