Canada

Parliament mulls warning labels on alcohol

Canadian alcohol bottles may soon sport warning labels similar to those on cigarette packages, if a Liberal MP has his way.

Canadian alcohol bottles may soon sport warning labels similar to those on cigarette packages, if a Liberal MP has his way.

Ontario Liberal MP Paul Szabo appeared before a parliamentary committee on Thursday to try to get them to back his private member's bill, Bill C-206.

Szabo has been working for 10 years to get the labels, which would warn about the possible effects of alcohol such as impaired ability to drive, health issues and possible birth defects in pregnant women.

"If we could help save one life or someone from misery for their full life, this bill is worth going forward with," said Szabo, whose bill has already passed its second reading in the House of Commons.

Federal Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh is on record as supporting the bill – although he said he sees it as part of a broader effort to combat the social and health problems alcohol can cause.

"If you asked me whether putting warning labels on alcohol bottles would be a panacea for this, I would say no. It is one part of a comprehensive strategy that we are trying to develop."

A man whose 12-year-old son was killed by an impaired driver was delighted by the idea.

"The idea is No. 1, it's fantastic," he said in French. "It should have been done a long time ago, it could have saved lives."

Similar labels are already mandatory in 20 countries around the world, including the United States.

The beverage industry opposes the idea, however, complaining that it would cost $15 million to $20 million each year to implement the plan.

And they're not the only ones – a not-for-profit organization dedicated to promoting the responsible consumption of alcohol also rejects the bill.

"Warning labels on bottles are inefficient and useless," said Hubert Sacy, of the Éduc'alcool.

"And therefore, we think the money that has to be invested in this [initiative] should be better used if we do education and awareness programs."