Researchers in Nova Scotia test efficacy of warning labels on alcohol

Jun 9, 2023

Earlier in May, a team of researchers at St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia received a research grant from the federal government to test the effectiveness of alcohol warning labels.

The research team is led by Dr. Kara Thompson, the director of the substance use and health in the emerging adulthood lab at the university, while the grant that will be used to fund the research is worth $238,951.

As part of the research project, Dr. Thompson and her team will request craft brewers to help create and design a label that describes the negative consequences of drinking too much.

“If [craft brewers] voluntarily introduce warning labels to assist our consumers in making informed decisions, it’s just another great example of corporate social responsibility,” said Dr. Thompson in a released statement.

In February, after the release of the federal report titled Canada’s Guidance on Alcohol and Health, provincial health authorities in Nova Scotia already discussed the report’s recommendations, including the idea of placing warning labels on alcohol products. The federal report links cancer and alcohol consumption, stating that consuming more than two drinks a week increases the risk of several types of cancer.

 

“I think that is best addressed at the federal level,” said Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer, in his interview with CBC News. “We have those approaches on tobacco products. It certainly was a big focus as we legalized cannabis. We should be doing the same for alcohol.”

Thompson said most of the studies done on warning labels in the past have been done in a lab or online and “not in a real-world setting where people are actually purchasing containers with labels on them.”

Specifically, the study carried out by Dr. Thompson and her team will involve informing consumers about alcohol risks before adding the labels. Then, the labels will be introduced to determine whether behaviours related to alcohol consumption have changed.

In his interview with CBC News, Big Spruce Brewing owner Jeremy White noted that all risks associated with alcohol should be flagged. He also added that involving craft breweries in creating a warning label is an essential step.

“We trade on artwork and brandability that exists on those labels and we’re going to want to make sure this is done in a way that can coexist with the things that do assist in selling our wares,” White said.