|ALCOHOL WARNING LABELS GO UNNOTICED, POLL FINDS
Public Supports Making Alcohol Warning Labels More Conspicuous
(Washington - Aug. 17) After ten years of health warning labels on alcoholic beverage containers, most Americans -- even those who drink -- don't notice or read the warning message. Three out of four persons in a national survey conducted for the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) said that they would be more aware of the warning message if it were easier to read.
Nearly three out of four drinkers (73%; 42% strongly) agree with the statement that warning messages "sometimes appear in the least prominent place on containers, making them difficult to notice and read." Among drinkers, only 34% said they generally noticed the warning label.
The CSPI poll surveyed 801 randomly selected American adults and was conducted by Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates, Inc. between July 29 and 31, 2001. Other findings include:
"Consumers don't notice the warnings, don't read the warnings, and don't know what they say. Consumers say warnings are too small, hard to find, often illegible, and sometimes hidden in an obscure place on a bottle or can," said George Hacker, director of CSPI's alcohol policies project. "Noticing the warning label should not be as difficult as finding "Waldo."
Significantly, the poll also found that the one-third of drinkers who say they usually notice the warning label are just as likely as other drinkers to say the warning message is difficult to read. The drinkers who usually notice the warning are also just as likely as other drinkers to believe that improvements in the presentation of the warning message would make it more effective. Apparently, just because some drinkers notice the message does not mean they believe it is effective in its present form.
"The poll data clearly show that consumers think the warning statement was designed specifically not to be noticed," commented Marty McGough, who conducted the CSPI poll for Penn, Schoen and Berland Associates, Inc. He added, "Most Americans seem to be saying that, from the standpoint of noticeability, many labels could hardly be worse."
The poll on warning messages was conducted in response to a request for public comment issued in May by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF), which regulates the labeling of alcoholic beverages. The current proceeding is a response to a November 1999 petition, signed by 121 organizations and four members of Congress, seeking improved warning label requirements.
In addition to the poll results and comments to the agency, CSPI also submitted a statement supporting improved warning labels signed by more than 50 health officials, including deans of schools of medicine and public health, state health department directors, addiction specialists, and public health leaders, including former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop.
"Congress passed the Alcohol Beverage Labeling Act of 1988 to inform the American public and alcohol consumers of serious risks related to alcohol consumption. BATF has failed to carry out Congress' intent and failure to improve the warning messages now would only increase alcohol problems. It is high time for improvements," Hacker added.
For more information on alcohol warning labels, please click here.