Reducing harm caused by alcohol


AFS calls for compulsory health warnings on alcoholic drinks

Alcohol Focus Scotland is calling for information on health risks to be required on all alcoholic drinks to help consumers make informed choices about their drinking.

The UK Chief Medical Officers have been consulting on how to communicate their new alcohol guidelines which recognise there is no safe level of alcohol consumption and state that men and women should not regularly drink more than 14 units per week.

In response to this consultation, Alcohol Focus Scotland is calling for more to be done to help people understand units, the recommended weekly limits and the health risks associated with alcohol. These health risks include cancer, cardiovascular disease, liver damage and mental health problems.

Mandatory labelling is essential to help consumers to make practical use of the guidelines. Every product should have to describe the product's ingredients, calorie and alcohol content. This information should also appear on drinks lists and menus in bars and restaurants.

Current "drink responsibly" messages should be replaced with compulsory factual health warnings and experience from tobacco suggests these must be varied over time so they continue to have impact.

In addition, all alcohol products should state that alcohol should be avoided completely when pregnant.

There is strong public support for improved labelling, with 87% of Scots backing health information and 76% supporting nutrition and calorie information on labels.

Alison Douglas, Chief Executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland said:

"Alcohol Focus Scotland welcomes the Chief Medical Officers' guidance which is based on a comprehensive review of the evidence on the health risks of drinking alcohol. The challenge now is to make it easier for people to make practical use of this guidance. As consumers we need the right information at the right time to enable us to make informed choices about whether, what and how much to drink.

"We all have the right to know what we are putting into our bodies. Mandatory labelling, including health warnings, would enable each of us to understand and manage the risks associated with alcohol consumption. Alcohol is both addictive and carcinogenic and should not be seen as an ordinary, everyday product.

"It is totally absurd that legislation requires more consumer information to be printed on a pint of milk than on a bottle of vodka."