A group of parliamentarians in Northern Ireland is calling on ministers to do with alcohol what has already been done with tobacco and food packaging. They want labels placed on alcohol products that provide both nutritional information and warnings about the consequences of using alcohol irresponsibly. The group, known as the All Parliamentary Party Group on Alcohol Misuse, is asking all of the political parties to adhere to a list of 10 principles that would ostensibly reduce alcohol misuse.
In an official statement, the group referenced the fact that health and safety warnings are clearly printed on tobacco packaging. Likewise, labels containing nutritional information are required on food products. They believe both types of information should be applied to alcohol packaging as well. The details of what those labels would actually look like would have to go through the normal regulatory process before any measures could be implemented.
Would it help?
The question MPs must now ask themselves is whether implementing the proposal would do anything to help the problem of alcohol misuse. On the one hand, proponents cite the successful reduction of smoking rates through various campaigns focused on education. They believe health warnings on tobacco products are a part of the success we have seen over the years. They believe warning labels on alcohol would be equally helpful.
On the other hand, critics say that warning labels alone are likely to be largely unhelpful. They claim that reducing smoking rates has been the result of aggressive anti-smoking campaigns that have made using combustible tobacco socially acceptable. Without attaching that same sort of societal stigma to alcohol misuse, we are not likely to see any measurable change.
As for nutritional information, there is no evidence that printing such information on food labels has had any measurable impact on dietary choices. It appears people continue to make the same food choices even when they know what is in the food they eat. For the same reason, nutritional information on alcohol packaging is not likely to change any minds.
What Can We Do?
Regardless of your position on adding warning labels to alcohol, we have the more immediate problem of alcohol abuse and misuse that requires viable treatments. All over the UK there are people imprisoned by alcohol, unable to break free without professional help. Something needs to be done to make more help available to more people in need, whether it is through private rehab clinics or better funded NHS programmes.
Regular readers of our blog know we recently profiled a brand-new rehab clinic opening shortly in the Midlands. That clinic is the fourth such clinic owned and operated by the same private company. The fact that they have been able to expand their business over the years shows that the services they provide are working. We need more of that.
The private clinic model works because, unlike the NHS, clinic owners only have one thing to focus on – addiction recovery. Having a single mission and mindset allows for concentrated care in a setting that is separate from every other sort of healthcare service. This is good for doctors, nurses, therapists and their patients.
No one can say for sure whether putting warning labels on alcohol will have any measurable impact or not. What we can say is that continuing to live a life controlled by alcohol is not a good thing. If you are struggling with a drinking problem, no matter how severe, Addiction Helper wants to assist you. You may call us at any time for confidential assessments, free advice, and referrals throughout the UK. Addiction politics is a problematic topic, but we can assist you with understanding everything about it.