Joint Statement of Public Health Officials Regarding the BATF Rulemaking on Allowing Health Related Statements in the Advertising of Alcoholic Beverages or on the Labels of Alcoholic-Beverage Containers
To the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms
Providing advice about alcohol consumption can be risky business for individual health practitioners and even riskier for government agencies that seek to help consumers make healthy choices. This task is made more difficult by simplistic newspaper headlines or sensational television reports that proclaim that moderate drinking reduces coronary artery disease and enhances longevity.
Although we recognize the evolving epidemiological evidence associating the consumption of small amounts of alcoholic beverages with some health benefits, we believe that this information fails to provide support for generalized, population-wide recommendations to drink for one's health.
The balancing of risks and benefits that might be expected from consumption of alcohol will vary greatly from individual to individual depending on that person's genetic makeup, age, sex, race, body-mass, and susceptibility to a variety of diseases. The variety of factors which help determine whether or not a given individual might expect a small improvement, or worsening of health from consuming alcohol is far too complex to be reduced to a message on an alcoholic-beverage container or in an advertisement for alcoholic beverages.
We are concerned that allowing any health related statements or claims in conjunction with the sale of alcoholic beverages will only mislead consumers, and persuade them to drink alcohol "for health reasons." Furthermore, any suggestion that there are potential benefits for some people in consuming small amounts of alcoholic-beverages may also help heavier drinkers rationalize their consumption and justify their dependency, with catastrophic health and safety consequences for themselves and others. Many people should not drink at all.
Finally, we note that there is clear evidence that any recommendation about individual drinking that results in a greater consumption of alcohol for the American population as a whole, will lead to an increase in the alcohol-related health problems in our society.
We urge the BATF to disallow any health related statements or claims on alcoholic beverage containers or in the advertising of alcoholic-beverage products.
Former Surgeons General
M. Jocelyn Elders, Surgeon General of the United
Deans of Schools of Public Health
Dr. Kenneth J. Bart, Dean, Graduate School of
Public Health, San Diego State University
Directors of State Departments of Public Health
Dr. Fay W. Boozman, Director, Arkansas Department
Directors of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Departments
Luceille Fleming, Director, Ohio Department of
Alcohol & Drug Addiction Services
February 19, 2000