Whitehorse Daily Star

Image title

Photo by Vince Fedoroff

EXPLAINING THE RATIONALE – A media event was held Wednesday at the Whitehorse liquor store to publicize the bottle labelling initiative. Shown left to right are Dr. Erin Hobin, a scientist at Public Health Ontario who is involved in the alcohol consumption study; John Streicker, the minister responsible for the Yukon Liquor Corp.; and Dr. Brendan Hanley, the Yukon’s chief medical officer of health.

Image title

Photo by Vince Fedoroff

WARNINGS WITH CONSUMPTION – The labels affixed to the liquor bottles include one linking consumption to cancer (not shown).

Label initiative ‘informs people,’ minister says

The Yukon is the first Canadian jurisdiction to introduce liquor labels warning of the association between alcohol use and cancer,

By Taylor Blewett on November 24, 2017

The Yukon is the first Canadian jurisdiction to introduce liquor labels warning of the association between alcohol use and cancer, and encouraging moderate drinking.

The labels are rolling out on bottles this month as part of the federally funded Northern Territories Alcohol Study, in which the Yukon is participating.

The labels will only be affixed to liquor products sold out of the Whitehorse liquor store for a few months until this study phase wraps up in the spring.

However, the minister responsible for the Yukon Liquor Corp. said the government will consider making the labelling regime a permanent practice if it proves effective.

“We always want to strike a balance between being the organization that provides alcohol and an opportunity for local businesses, while at the same time recognizing that there are some social issues that are created with alcohol and addictions,” John Streicker told the Star Thursday.

“You don’t want to be blind to that; you need to think about it up front and be working towards promoting that social responsibility. So of course, we would consider this,” he said.

But making the new labels a permanent fixture on liquor bottles in the Yukon would depend on a variety of factors.

One of these, Streicker explained, is if and/or how the labels affect Yukoners’ relationship with alcohol.

“At the very least, we know that it informs people. It provides information that they might not have otherwise had.

“And so I think that’s a positive in its own right,” he said.

“Does it change behaviours? Well, that’s what we’re trying to assess here.”

According to Brendan Hanley, the Yukon’s chief medical officer of health, the territory has a drinking problem.

Hanley told the Star Thursday there are a number of indicators that point to heavier-than-average alcohol consumption in the Yukon, compared to other jurisdictions in Canada.

Hanley said he believes that Yukoners are familiar with the fact that alcohol can be harmful. However, he’s not sure there’s as much knowledge about the specific harms associated with consumption.

Science has known for a long time that there’s a strong link between drinking and gastrointestinal tract cancers like esophageal and liver cancer.

But evidence is mounting to support the relationship between colorectal cancer and alcohol use, breast cancer and “even moderate levels of alcohol consumption,” Hanley said.

And of these potential harms, consumers typically want to be informed, according to the chief medical officer of health.

Background research conducted before the Northern Territories Alcohol Study indicated that there is an appetite for informative labelling.

In fact, the liquor corporation has been warning of the risks associated with drinking during pregnancy by way of liquor labels since 1991.

But all potential harms considered, Hanley also qualified that there has to be a balance between warning consumers of the harm drinking, especially heavy drinking, can cause, and respecting the centrality of alcohol in our lives.

“It’s in fact a lot more straightforward with tobacco because there really is no safe level of tobacco consumption,” Hanley explained.

Most Canadians are familiar with the lurid, federally-mandated tobacco packing warning consumers of lung cancer, strokes, and other potential ill-effects of smoking.

“But we know that even if the health benefits are increasingly being questioned,” Hanley said – the belief that a daily glass of wine, for example, is good for one’s heart health – “there’s certainly social benefits.

“And we know that at low levels of consumption, there are probably no physical harms associated with alcohol.”

Marketing also poses a challenge to making the new labels a long-term fixture on Yukon liquor bottles, Streicker pointed out.

“There’s always going to be some concerns out there by industry. I mean, industry probably is not a big proponent of this, but I think they recognize that we have a job to ensure moderation and safe drinking guidelines,” he said.

The minister also noted that there’s only so much room on a bottle to advertise information.

Similarly, consumers tend to gloss over labels they’re constantly exposed to. One of the methods under consideration, Streicker said, is rotating labels.

At the very least, however, people are being informed. And not just in the Yukon, he pointed out.

The labelling study has attracted national media attention.

Health Canada is funding the study, and alcohol labelling is primarily Ottawa’s jurisdiction. Provinces and territories may enact additional labelling requirements.

“So I’m glad that we’re sort of taking a lead here, and then we’ll see where it goes,” Streicker said.

“Ultimately,” Hanley noted, “this is something we’d like to see federal leadership in.”

A survey will be conducted in the spring to evaluate the labels’ effects on consumers in the Yukon.

Comments (11)

Up 2 Down 0

Josey Wales on Nov 29, 2017 at 10:27 pm

Canadian warning label for booze....

“ Caution drinking products to excess will ensure a complete loss of personal responsibility, may produce cognitive challenged children that also has no personal responsibility, may induce state appointed enabling via publicly funded lawyers and personal wellness coaches, may result in weeks or weekends in jail if involved in a uninsurable collision resulting in multiple fatalities of responsible citizens”

...in short, get wasted it feeds an entire industry and hey...it is Canada in 2017! Nobody is responsible for anything, terrorists, drunks, psychotic killers, pedofiles, lying politicians....redundant I know.

Up 1 Down 0

Karl on Nov 29, 2017 at 5:09 pm

What about some actual useful information on what the risks are instead of slapping generalized stickers on everything that say "May cause cancer". I want to know on the cancer spectrum of smoking to sandwich meat, how bad drinking actually is.

Up 3 Down 0

Juniper Jackson on Nov 29, 2017 at 2:26 pm

Oh yeah..the cigarette ads on the boxes stopped smoking too.. NOT.. smokers are gonna ' smoke, drinker's are gonna' drink, stoner's gonna' do drugs.. obese gonna' eat.. Everyone has some baggage they are carrying and all the little labels on packaging is not going to stop anyone.. they will stop whatever it is when they want to stop... Education can start in the schools, about the dangers of drugs, sugar, nutrition, alcohol.. the Liberal party....(cheap shot?) and moderation.. but a sticker? not going to stop anyone. (Just my opinion..)

Up 10 Down 0

Tom Stevens on Nov 27, 2017 at 8:09 am

I remember a number of years ago WCB spent a ton of money to bring this program out of Ontario for youth safety called "SMART RISK" The first question was why were the folks in Ontario, Toronto in particular needing to come to the Yukon to sell their wares. The program was a dud.
Now we have this new program again from Ontario. No surprise, people of the Yukon consume large amounts of alcohol and I am sure from years of experience they know the risks and still do what they do. This is all for pomp and pagentry

Up 10 Down 0

Max Mack on Nov 25, 2017 at 10:59 am

Hobin is not "studying" alcohol consumption in the Yukon. Her "study" will produce the expected results. The photo accompanying the story says it all.

The Liberals are intent on social engineering, new regulations and increased costs because, apparently, Yukoners all drink like fish and we're all going to die from alcohol consumption. I can't wait for the inevitable tax increases intended to "discourage consumption".

Up 10 Down 0

Groucho d'North on Nov 25, 2017 at 10:16 am

The little yellow pregnancy stickers were a national first too, they were championed by Margret Joe back in 1991. I wonder if any studies have been completed to measure how effective they have been in reducing FASD?
Perhaps government should be focusing on what works best rather than trying to be the first jurisdiction to do something to capture media attention.
I've always believed those little yellow stickers should have said WARNING: Drinking may cause pregnancy.

Up 8 Down 0

Yukon56 on Nov 24, 2017 at 7:06 pm

What a waste of time and money

Up 6 Down 0

BnR on Nov 24, 2017 at 6:32 pm

John Streicker aka The Smartest Man In the Yukon telling is what we need to know.....
Can you imagine if he had been elected as our MP?

Up 9 Down 0

Thomas Brewer on Nov 24, 2017 at 4:07 pm

this is a mere back-slapping exercise. these stickers will not make one iota of difference in the consumption (or over consumption) in the territory.

lets see some longitudinal studies on this, I will be proven correct.

Up 8 Down 0

NIle on Nov 24, 2017 at 3:58 pm

And how much money is this pointless exercise costing?

Up 7 Down 0

ProScience Greenie on Nov 24, 2017 at 3:44 pm

Not a big deal. Definitely not worthy of a photo op.

Add your comments or reply via Twitter @whitehorsestar

In order to encourage thoughtful and responsible discussion, website comments will not be visible until a moderator approves them. Please add comments judiciously and refrain from maligning any individual or institution. Read about our user comment and privacy policies.

Your name and email address are required before your comment is posted. Otherwise, your comment will not be posted.