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Canadian experiment on alcohol labelling ended early


A Canadian research project into the effectiveness of warning labels on alcoholic beverages was cancelled in its first month, despite a planned 8-month duration.

Brightly-coloured labels were due to warn drinkers of the health risks of alcohol consumption, following a government-financed project to curb excessive drinking. One variation of the labels summarised Canada's alcohol drinking guidelines, while the other highlighted the casual link between alcohol and cancer.

The Yukon Territory, where the experiment was due to take place, has the highest per capitas sales of alcohol in Canada.

Yukon, despite being almost as large as Spain, has a population of merely 36,000 and as such were cowed by the prospect of litigation from Canada's alcohol industry.

The experiment is part of a 4-year project financed by Health Canada, a government department. Dr. Hobin, whose research led the project had found that three-quarters of drinkers in the Yukon were unaware of the link between alcohol and cancer.

Focus groups of drinkers found strong support for health warnings on liquor bottles.

Representatives of the alcohol industry bridled at the utility, accuracy and appropriateness of the warning labels, particularly with regard to those labels causally linking alcohol with cancer.

Robert Solomon, Professor of Law at the University of Western Ontario in London, argues that - despite the alcohol industry's protests - the Supreme Court of Canada's verdict on warnings on cigarette packages was sufficient precedent to allow the Yukon government to add its labels on alcoholic beverages.