Alcohol label laws slammed

Holyrood is watching new Irish measures “with interest”

Traditional pub
Ireland has approved new labelling laws.

By Jonathan Watt

THE potential introduction of Irish-style cancer warnings on alcohol products in Scotland has been described as “ridiculous” by operators and trade groups.

Last month in Ireland, the Dáil approved the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill in a bid to combat problem drinking.

Incorporated within the legislation was the adoption of minimum unit pricing and statutory labelling on alcoholic beverages to warn about the health risks of drinking – including links between alcohol and cancer, similar to that seen on tobacco packaging.

The measures are currently awaiting the approval of the European Commission.

The labelling move prompted fears that the Scottish Government may look to implement a similar policy.

A Scottish Government spokesman told SLTN that it is “watching the progress of the Irish measures with interest”, adding that people “have a right to know about the harms associated with alcohol such as liver disease, heart disease and cancer”.

But making such warnings on alcohol products compulsory in Scotland was branded “nonsense” by Paul Waterson of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association.

He said: “We certainly don’t believe that we need health warnings on any containers.

“We have been successful here in Scotland to cut down the problems associated with alcohol in the last few years and this isn’t really needed.

“The Irish legislation is very draconian and will cause a lot of difficulty for producers.

“I was taken aback when I saw the severity of the warnings. It’s just nonsense.”

Padraig Cribben, chief executive of the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland, said cancer labelling was an “unjust imposition on the trade unless similar warnings are required for any other product that has the possibility to cause cancer”.

Allan James, general manager of the Park Hotel in Montrose, suggested a similar policy could eventually put some venues in jeopardy.

He said: “I doubt if the introduction of warning labels would make any difference to business levels in pubs and bars in the short term but if it does discourage people from drinking, then even more pubs and bars will end up closing their doors in the future.

“Aesthetically, it would probably look ridiculous and may eventually lead to similar treatment as we have for tobacco whereby it is all concealed from view – simply ridiculous.”

And Charles Asson, duty manager of Glasgow cocktail bar Blue Dog, said such a move would be a sign the Scottish Government was taking an “Orwellian” approach to alcohol.

He added: “If they do go through with this then I think everybody loses, including the vast majority of people who drink responsibly.”