Action Alert:
Alcoholic-Beverage Health Warnings

(Comments due on or before August 20, 2001)

On May 22, 2001, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) issued an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to amend regulations implementing the Alcoholic Beverage Labeling Act of 1998 concerning the placement, legibility, and noticeability of health warning statements on alcoholic beverage containers. The notice (No. 917) responds to the November 19, 1999 petition filed by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD), four members of Congress, and 119 other public health, consumer, safety, and child-protection organizations, asking the BATF to insure that alcohol warning labels meet basic criteria for effective label design. At the time of the petition, a brief survey of alcoholic-beverage labels found that warning messages were often inconspicuously placed on a back label or neck ring; printed vertically, rather than horizontally; and/or printed in a color that blends into the background label coloring. All the labels CSPI found were printed entirely in upper-case letters, making them more difficult to read.

The petition requested the following label requirements:

  1. The health warning statement must appear in a prominent place, in a horizontal position, on the front of the container;
  2. The health warning statement must appear in red or black type on a white background, and be surrounded by a lined border;
  3. The first two words of the health warning statement (i.e., "GOVERNMENT WARNING") must appear in capital letters and boldface type that is at least 15 percent larger than the remaining text of the statement. The text of the remaining portion of the warning statement must be in upper and lower-case lettering. A particular type font should be required to maximize legibility; and
  4. The warning statement must appear together with a red pictorial device or icon to attract consumer attention.

The BATF notice invites public comments from consumers, consumer group, interest groups and others to gather information on whether the current regulations should be revised. Specifically, the BATF would like to receive comments that address the following questions:

  • Are consumers aware that the health warning statement must appear on the labels of all alcoholic beverages sold in the U.S.?
  • Do consumers look for the warning statement on alcohol beverage containers?
  • Do consumers notice the health warning statement on alcohol beverage containers?
  • Do consumers read the warning statement on alcohol beverage containers?
  • Are consumers familiar with the information contained in the alcohol health warning statement?
  • Do consumers find the warning statement on alcohol beverages difficult to read?
  • Do consumers have examples of alcohol beverages where the warning statement is legible and noticeable? What makes the warning statement legible and noticeable?
  • Do consumers believe the regulations need to be amended to make the warning statement more legible?
  • What would be the costs associated with adopting any or all of the changes recommended by the petitioners, to the industry and, ultimately the consumer?

We encourage public health groups, grassroots organizations, state and local agencies and others working to prevent alcohol problems (specifically, alcohol-related traffic crashes and fetal alcohol syndrome) to submit comments to the BATF.

Send your comments on or before August 20, 2001.

  • Written comments to: Chief, Regulations Division, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, P.O. Box 50221, Washington, D.C. 200091-0221.
  • Fax written comments to: (202) 927-8602. Comments must be legible, reference the notice number, be 8 X 11 inches in size, contain a legible written signature, and be no more than three pages long.
  • Email comments to: nprm@atfhq.atf.treas.gov. Email comments must contain your name, mailing address, and email address. Comments must also reference the notice number, be legible and no longer than three pages when printed.

For more information please contact George Hacker at (202) 332-9110 or view the following online resources:

Please check the BoozeNews website in the coming weeks for our comments
to the BATF on alcoholic beverage warning labels.

May 25, 2001