The All Parliamentary Group on Alcohol Misuse is pushing for changes to the law that would require alcoholic drinks to carry warning labels similar to those found on cigarette packets. This seems like a sensible move given that it is estimated that alcohol abuse costs the UK up to £55 billion every year due to NHS costs, loss of productivity, and alcohol-fuelled crime. Excessive drinking is also the leading cause of death among young people.
As well as the dangers of alcohol, there is also the fact that most people seem unaware about how many calories are in these drinks. At the moment, the obesity epidemic is creating health problems for people of all ages. It is important that individuals understand that when they drink beer and wine, they are consuming many empty calories (a pint of larger has the same calories as a slice of pizza).
Some people are sure to greet the idea of warning labels with cynicism, believing that surely most people are already aware of the dangers of drinking excessively. The reality is that while this information is promoted, people are easily able to filter it out. This is because alcohol is so socially acceptable that most individuals do not even consider it a drug.
It is hard to judge how effective adding warning labels to cigarettes has been, but it did have some effect on how people related to this product. It made it much harder for people to ignore the dangers of this type of behaviour, and it is expected that something similar would happen with the addition of warning labels to cigarette packets.
There is already a voluntary agreement with the drinks industry whereby they do provide a warning to pregnant mothers, and there is information on the number of calories in alcohol as well. The problem is that these labels are too small and most people do not even notice them. The idea is for these new warning labels to be far more prominent.
The All Parliamentary Group on Alcohol Misuse is made up of MPs, and they are currently using their influence to have the laws change to discourage individuals from abusing alcohol. As well as the proposal to put warning labels on cigarettes, there are also other recommendations, including:
- a ban on using alcohol advertisements at sporting events
- prevention of any alcohol advertisements that could target children
- lowering the drink driving limit in the UK so that it is in line with the rest of Europe
- the introduction of a minimum price for a unit of alcohol
- increasing the cost of alcoholic drinks bought at supermarkets
- doctors need to do more to question the drinking habits of patients and warn of potential dangers
- midwives and community nurses should be better trained to spot the signs of alcohol abuse
- new drinking recommendations should highlight the importance of people never drinking more than two days in a row
- individuals need to be warned that there are still dangers even if they stick to the recommended levels for alcohol consumption.
The negative effects of alcohol are too much to be ignored, and the government realises that more needs to be done to deal with the problem. It does seem likely that at least some of the measures suggested by the All Parliamentary Group on Alcohol Misuse are going to be introduced.