Alcohol companies in Great Britain have struck a deal with the Department of Health to print health warnings on nearly all cans and bottles containing beer and spirits.
The industry hopes to avoid legislation to force it to introduce stark health warnings similar to those on cigarette packets.
By the end of the year, 85% of beer sold in cans and bottles will have some kind of warning or guidance about drinking responsibly. Many brands of spirits will also carry the new messages.
Observers have predicted that, like cigarette health warnings, the messages on alcohol packaging will gradually become more prominent. In 1971, cigarette makers first displayed small messages on their packets on a voluntary basis. The messages are compulsory and now large areas of cigarette packets are taken up with blunt warnings such as “Smoking kills.”
The British Beer and Pub Association said weekend that the new labels would include the number of units contained in the product as well as the warning that people should “drink responsibly.”
Diageo, which produces some of the country’s best known brands including Bells whisky, Smirnoff vodka, Gordon’s gin and Guinness, will put the new warnings on almost all its products sold in Britain by the end of the year.
The company says the “responsible drinking messages will remind adults of the importance of enjoying beverage alcohol in moderation.” Labels will include “nutritional” information about the contents of drinks as well as their alcohol content. Scottish & Newcastle introduced the new labeling to Newcastle Brown Ale last year and announced plans to place it on packaging for Fosters, Kronenbourg and John Smith’s beers.