CBC: Booze industry brouhaha over Yukon warning labels backfired, study suggests

Researcher Kate Vallance applies a warning label to a wine bottle in the Yukon government’s Whitehorse liquor store in 2017. (Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research)

Industry efforts to oppose a Yukon study into the effectiveness of warning labels on alcohol containers may have backfired, researchers say.

New papers from the Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research at the University of Victoria published this past week in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs found that warning labels actually were successful at grabbing public attention. They also found that industry pushback against the study may have actually generated more publicity for the labels.

“By drawing attention to its own lobbying, the industry may have inadvertently increased public support for alcohol policies and helped to further broadcast the message that alcohol is a cause of cancer,” wrote journal editor Thomas Babor, a professor of public health science at the University of Connecticut who was not involved in the study.

Study interrupted

Researchers placed three different labels on alcohol containers at the government liquor store in Whitehorse in 2017. The labels warned that alcohol causes certain types of cancer, the number of safe drinks in a container and information on safe levels of alcohol consumption.

The study found customers who saw the labels were more likely to remember what the labels said than customers at a comparison liquor store in Yellowknife where the labels weren’t used. And, the study found sales of labelled products dropped 6.6 per cent at the Whitehorse liquor store, while sales of unlabelled products rose 6.9 per cent.

Liquor labels, including one warning that alcohol can cause cancer, were placed on alcohol containers by researchers. (Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research)


“What we found was in fact, [the labels] worked,” said Kate Vallance, one of the study’s lead researchers

“Over time the people that we talked to in Yukon, they had increased knowledge of cancer risk from alcohol, better ability to estimate what one standard drink is, they had good recall of drinking guidelines and their knowledge improved over time.”

Click here for the full article.

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The opinions expressed in this post are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the FASD Prevention Conversation Project, its stakeholders, or funders.

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