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February 21, 2000


For More Information

George Hacker
202-332-9110 ext 343


Public-Health Officials Urge BATF to Disallow Health Claims on Alcoholic Beverage Containers/Ads

Alcohol Health Claims Could Increase Alcohol-Related Problems

WASHINGTON - Tomorrow the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), along with 33 public-health officials, including two former Surgeons General, will urge the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) to "just say no" to allowing health claims on alcoholic beverages.

In October 1999, the BATF issued a notice of proposed rulemaking to amend regulations governing health claims in alcohol advertising and on alcohol-products labels. The public comment period, allowing consumer input on potential changes to the rules, ends tomorrow.

In their joint statement to be submitted Tuesday to the BATF, former Surgeons General M. Jocelyn Elders and Julius B. Richmond, the Deans of 16 Schools of Public Health, nine Directors of State Departments of Public Health, and six Directors of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Departments state that they ". . .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.'"

In addition to the joint statement from public-health officials, CSPI will submit comments urging the BATF to ban all health claims for alcoholic beverages.

"Just suggesting that there are potential health benefits in consuming small amounts of alcohol may help heavy drinkers rationalize their unhealthy consumption and justify their dependency," says George Hacker, director of Alcohol Policies at CSPI. "Heavy drinking can lead to catastrophic health and safety consequences."

In its comments, CSPI asserts that health claims for alcoholic beverages are inherently misleading and should not be allowed for a number of reasons including:

  • There are serious risks associated with alcohol consumption.

  • Health benefits from moderate alcohol consumption do not apply universally.

  • Many groups of people should abstain from, or minimize their consumption of, alcohol.

  • Allowing health claims for alcohol would undermine the government warning label.

  • Explanatory statements are insufficient to clarify a misleading health claim.

"Even the most detailed disclaimers cannot cure the misleading nature of health claims for alcohol," concludes Hacker. "The risks of alcohol abuse are just too high."


EDITORS/REPORTERS NOTE: To view CSPI's comments online about proposed alcoholic beverage health claims changes, please go to To view the Joint Statement of Public Health Officials online please go to

CSPI is a nonprofit health-advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C., that focuses on food-safety and alcoholic-beverage issues. It is largely supported by nearly one million subscribers to its Nutrition Action Healthletter. CSPI led efforts to win passage of the law requiring warning labels on alcoholic beverages.