Coalition Announces Public Awareness Campaign on Alcohol Warning Labels

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Coalition Announces Public Awareness Campaign on Alcohol Warning Labels

As the law requiring warning labels became operative Nov. 18, a coalition of more than 100 health, consumer, parent, alcoholism and religious organizations kicked off a national awareness campaign to alert consumers to the new labels. At a Capitol Hill news conference four days before the effective date, representatives of the coalition also joined key lawmakers in calling on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) to strengthen the labeling rules to make the warnings more legible and prominent.

The awareness campaign -- announced by the Coalition for Health and Safety Warnings on Alcoholic Beverages -- includes print and radio public service announcements (PSAs) about the warning labels for national distribution. In addition to the Washington, DC, news conference, press events took place in other cities prior to the Nov. 18 implementation date of the warning label requirement.

The coalition, coordinated by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) and the National Council on Alcoholism (NCA), is pressing BATF to strengthen the temporary rules governing warning labels issued last February and operative until a final rule is promulgated. They are being joined by Sens. Strom Thurmond (R-SC) and Albert Gore (D-TN) in the effort to require a more prominent warning on the alcoholic beverage containers.

The law, enacted last year, requires that the containers of beer, wine, wine cooler and distilled spirits carry the statement: "GOVERNMENT WARNING: 1) According to the Surgeon General, women should not drink alcoholic beverages during pregnancy because of the risk of birth defects. 2) Consumption of alcoholic beverages impairs your ability to drive a car or operate machinery, and may cause health problems."

Under the BATF rules, the warning can be placed on the front, side or back labels of the container. The type must be a minimum one millimeter in size for small containers (less than eight ounces), and two millimeters on larger containers. A millimeter is about the width of a dime.

At the news conference, Thurmond, principal author of the warning label legislation, declared that "alcohol is America's most widely used drug. The time is long past due that the American consumer was informed of the problems associated with alcohol."

Noting that he first began his effort to mandate warning labels through legislation 20 years ago, Thurmond said, "the war isn't over yet. …

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