A glass of wine with dinner. A beer to relax after work. Drinking alcohol is something most of us do without usually giving it a lot of thought.
Even small amounts of alcohol can present health consequences, which is prompting a researcher at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health to push for stronger warning labels on all alcohol products.
“The Centers for Disease Control released new statistics indicating that alcohol consumption now accounts for about 140,000 deaths every year in the U.S and we know those rates have been rising over the last 20 years or so,” said Anna Grummon, Ph.D.
A big spike in alcohol consumption happened throughout the pandemic.
“We have increasing research showing that most Americans are not aware of some of the most serious harms of alcohol consumption,” added Grummon.
Cirrhosis of the liver tops the list.
“Unfortunately, this increase in cirrhosis, as well as deaths related to cirrhosis, is being disproportionately seen in our younger adults between the ages of 25-34,” said Doctor Michael Curry of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
“Alcohol first and foremost can result in an increase of liver cancer,” explained Dr. Curry. “There are approximately seven other cancers where alcohol has some effect. Also, we see an increase in breast cancer in women who have histories of heavy alcohol intake.”
Grummon recently co-wrote an article that appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine. It made the case for stronger warning labels on alcohol.
“The best warning labels are warnings that are front and center.”
Right now, alcoholic beverages just contain a short blurb stating the danger to pregnant women and from operating heavy machinery.
“We have a large body of evidence from other domains like tobacco control, that when we move away from text-only warnings that are small, and on the back of the package, to warnings with better designs that are large, that have pictures, etc., that really boost their efficacy.”
Grummon’s goal is to empower consumers with more information.
“The goal wouldn’t be to drive consumption to zero,” explained Grummon. “It would be to present consumers with the information that currently most of us aren’t aware of, and to do it at the exact moment when we’re making a decision about whether to buy a product or consume a product, so it’s easily accessible.”
Alcohol-related health problems are a worldwide issue.
Doctor Curry says about three million deaths are linked to alcohol annually, representing about 5% of all deaths.
Boston 25 News reached out to the two largest industry groups that represent alcohol manufacturers. Neither had any comment on this proposal.
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