Alcohol Health warning labels by 2014

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Alcohol warning labels by 2014: parliamentary inquiry

A parliamentary inquiry into foetal alcohol syndromethis week recommended that federal government adopt a plan to implement health warning labels on alcohol products and be featured in alcohol advertisements by January 2014.

The inquiry also called for a study into the effects of alcohol marketing on the youth and their levels of consumption. It hopes to tighten the regulation of alcohol sales to avoid harm to the part of the population that excessive alcohol consumption and teenage drinking causes.

Other issues discussed were a possible campaign for public awareness and better education for women about the negative effects of drinking while pregnant and FASD rather than a ban on drinking for pregnant women because while it is damaging to the baby, a mother’s right to decide is also a factor that needs to be considered.

Although both state and federal governments have not yet discussed the findings and recommendations of the committee the WA government has always led the way in the fight against FASD. Now the WA authorities are launching an advertising campaign in July to educate women about drinking while pregnant because many women believe that an occasional drink is acceptable, the campaign will challenge this belief.

Foetal Alcohol Syndrome is the result of a foetus’ exposure to alcohol while in the womb causing a host of problems, physical, cognitive, intellectual, behavioural and social which can contribute to communicating problems and difficulties with memory retention and attention skills.

Education and campaigns are so important because the condition is incurable, the good news though is that it is entirely preventable.

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“While the risk of FASD increases with the quantity of alcohol a pregnant woman consumes, what is not widely understood is that even small amounts of alcohol, at critical times, can result in irrevocable damage to the developing fetus.

“Time and again during the inquiry, the committee heard about the devastation that can be caused by prenatal alcohol exposure.”

The proposed health warnings would include a label advising women not to drink when pregnant or when planning a pregnancy.

The committee said the labels’ format and design should be finalised by March 1, next year, and be required to be on all alcohol products, advertising and packaging by January 1, 2014.

They also would be added to pregnancy and ovulation testing kits.

Australian Medical Association WA president Richard Choong applauded the committee for its recommendations, in particular mandatory warning labels.

“There needs to be more education and information to the public and doctors,” he said.

“We support mandatory labelling … because our aim is not just to target the women that are pregnant but to target the population to make them aware of this.”

Australian Hotels Association chief executive officer Bradley Woods said he was pleased the report focused on education and support rather than targeting hospitality staff who provided alcohol.

Mr Woods raised with the inquiry concerns that hospitality workers and liquor outlet employees were unsure of their legal obligations when serving pregnant women, as opposed to clear legislation banning sales to under 18s and intoxicated adults.

“The decision to consume alcohol by a pregnant woman should made by her, and not a bartender or attendant at a bottle shop,” said Mr Woods.

This issue is significant because it is affecting a very important part of the population, unborn children, who will eventually become the majority of the population. The effects of poisoning can be seen through childhood and into adulthood with symptoms such as heart defects, developmental problems, low birth weight, adult developmental delays, learning difficulties, behavioural problems and vulnerability to mental illness.

Experts say that as science has not provided information on what is the amount of alcohol that causes damage to the foetus, its best that expectant mothers abstain completely. Even once the baby is born, mother should not be drinking if breastfeeding just in case the alcohol can be passed on to the baby.


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