Do people understand the harms of alcohol? It depends on age and education. Young people may understand that alcohol is harmful in terms of acute effects, but they are willing to take chances, and the chronic effects (e.g., liver disease) are too far in the future to affect their drinking. And most people do not know much about the chronic effects, such as oral cancer, breast cancer, heart disease and several hundred more health conditions that are partially attributable to alcohol consumption, even at low doses like one drink a day.
How can they be better informed? Graphic warning label could help. A study in Canada showed that when people were informed that “alcohol causes cancer” they purchased less alcohol at the point of sale. Dietary guidelines promoted by national health authorities can inform consumers on a regular basis about alcohol-related harms, the benefits of not drinking, and the sensible limits that could minimize problems. They can also be better informed if the alcohol industry was forced to cease all advertising, which presents drinking as fun, healthy, and beneficial to social relationships, without informing consumers about the harms.
HIFA profile: Thomas Babor is Emeritus Professor at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, United States. Professional interests: Screening, diagnosis, early intervention, and treatment evaluation, as well as alcohol and drug policy; alcohol industry as an inducer of alcohol-related problems. babor AT uchc.edu