Alcohol health warning labels: Provincial and territorial restrictions or bans

Learn how provincial and territorial governments can limit alcohol advertising and promotion by using health warnings on labels

Inside this alcohol policy pack

Alcohol health warning labels

Issue
Restrict or ban alcohol advertising and promotions1,2,3

Action
Implement health warning labels on alcohol productsa

Degree of adoption in Canada
Low

Current actions in Canada
Adoption of policy action related to implementing health-warning labels on alcohol products is low, and evidence supporting such approaches is still emerging. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) regulates alcohol labelling at the federal level, and there is currently no requirement for alcohol products to carry warning messages, nor that warning messages are posted at points-of-sale.

Only the Yukon and Northwest Territories require labels to be affixed to alcoholic beverages that warn consumers about the risk of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) when alcohol is consumed during pregnancy. In addition, Ontario requires premises licensed to sell or serve liquor to visibly post signs in establishments warning consumers of these risks.

No provinces and territories in Canada have implemented product labels that warn consumers about the impact of consumption on cancer and chronic disease. In late 2017, the Yukon piloted health warning labels on alcoholic beverages. It was part of a research project to understand the impact on awareness and consumption with warning labels that indicate alcohol is a cancer risk factor. This pilot was halted prematurely by alcohol industry pressure on the territorial government.

References
1- World Health Organization (2013). Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases. Retrieved from:
http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/94384/1/9789241506236_eng.pdf?ua=1
2- Cancer Care Ontario (2016). Prevention System Quality Index. Retrieved from: https://www.cancercareontario.ca/en/statistical-reports/prevention-system-quality-index
3- Public Health Ontario/Cancer Care Ontario (2012). Taking Action to Prevent Chronic Disease. Retrieved from: https://www.ccohealth.ca/en/report-taking-action-to-prevent-chronic-disease
a- Giesbrecht, N., Wettlaufer, A., April, N., Asbridge, M., Cukier, S., Mann, R., McAllister, J., Murie, A., Plamondon, L., Stockwell, T., Thomas, G., Thompson, K., & Vallance, K. (2013). Strategies to Reduce Alcohol-Related Harms and Costs in Canada: A Comparison of Provincial Policies. Toronto: Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.