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Alcohol bottles get health warnings

12th July 2011

Manufacturers of alcoholic drinks have said they will voluntarily add labels to their products warning consumers about the risks associated with drinking.

australianfood1

The country's liquor industry launched the programme this week in a move which some say is an attempt to stave off criticism that it has encouraged a culture of excessive drinking.

Health advice warning labels will be attached to around 80% of beer, wine and spirits sold in Australia.

They are largely aimed at teenagers and pregnant women, according to industry executives.

The alcohol industry has funded a group called DrinkWise Australia to warn people of the dangers of excessive drinking.

Most Australians typically see drinking as a beneficial activity, and the group was set up in 2005 to counteract the nation's strong drinking culture.

A typical Australian teenager will start drinking alcohol at 15 1/2 years of age, according to the group's statistics.

They say more than 25% of 14-19 year-olds are drinking enough to be at risk from alcohol-related harm once every few weeks.

Worth said teenagers might look physically mature, but their brains still had a lot of developing to do.

She said many Australians saw drinking as historical tradition, an assumption which needed to be shaken up.

The labels will warn that "Kids and Alcohol Don't Mix," as well as telling women "It is Safest Not To Drink While Pregnant." One label asks consumers: "Is Your Drinking Harming Yourself or Others?"

Some products bearing the warnings are already for sale in the shops, with more to come over the next few months, Worth said.

The government is widely expected to make such warnings mandatory in a few months' time anyway.

Similar warnings are seen on alcoholic products in 14 other countries already, including the United States.

The first British convicts and their jailers celebrated their arrival in the country in 1788 with a huge and boozy party, and Australians have never wanted to change that tradition.

Prime ministers and sports stars have won renown for their capacity for beer, as well as their political and athletic achievements.

But brain experts say that brain development is at its most intense between the ages of 12 and 20, and that alcohol consumption disrupts this process.

Ian Hickie, executive director at the Brain and Mind Research Institute at the University of Sydney, said Australian teenagers tended to think they are bulletproof, with massive drinking binges common in the week after graduation from high school.

He called for greater public debate about safe alcohol consumption.

Government figures show that 13.4% of Australians engaged in high-risk drinking between 2004 and 2005, compared with just 8.2% in 1995.

More women reported drinking levels that were considered dangerous than previously.

 

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