The long struggle for cigarette warnings has lessons for alcohol labels, experts say – CBC

Litigious companies, hesitant politicians, and dismissive Canadians part of the tobacco-warning fight

Jan 19, 2023

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: A popular product promises relaxation and reward, with a hint of sex appeal. Experts say it causes cancer and should carry a warning label. Many people say the warnings won’t work. The industry is less than thrilled.

Ring any bells?

Since the day in 1963 when Minister of National Health and Welfare Judy LaMarsh declared in the House of Commons that smoking causes lung cancer, Canada has been among the world leaders in anti-smoking initiatives, including warning labels.

Sixty years later, experts are warning that alcohol is a cancer risk and its packaging should get similar treatment.

While the two stories are similar, people who have spent years studying or promoting anti-tobacco advocacy say alcohol labelling does not need to play out the same way — arduously and incrementally.

“I think we’ve learned a lot from from the endlessly long, drawn-out steps,” said Geoffrey Fong, a professor at the University of Waterloo and an investigator with both the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research and the International Tobacco Control Policy Evaluation Project.

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