Alcohol

Bitter taste of alcohol ban

Bitter taste of alcohol ban

Fitch Solutions expects South Africa’s alcohol industry to contract more than 5% following months on the ban on the sale of alcohol during COVID-19 lockdown regulations.

Fitch said its revised alcoholic drinks consumption forecast for 2020 takes into account the impact of COVID-19 measures on both the supply and demand side in order to better understand consumption habits.

“We now forecast total alcoholic drinks consumption to contract by -5.4% year on year in 2020, down from our pre-COVID-19 forecast of 0.7% year on year. This expectation stems from the fact that the more affordable beer category will be attractive to consumers as the economic impact of COVID-19 hits households,  with pay cuts and uncertainty around job security a likely outcome of the pandemic,” the consultancy said in a report.

“Furthermore, we expect consumers to purchase a larger proportion of their alcoholic drinks through the mass grocery retail channel and taverns for home consumption due to the residual fear of contracting the virus in public areas.”

The government earlier this month announced that it is lifting the ban on the sale of alcohol with limitations as the country entered in to level two of the nationwide lockdown from August 18. The new measures follow government’s decision to ban the sale of alcohol through both on-trade and off -trade establishments on July 13.

An initial ban on the sale of alcoholic drinks was implemented on March 27. David Clement from Consumer Choice Centre said that government’s ban on the sales of alcohol and tobacco products was a disaster.

“While South Africa’s failed prohibition experiment is over, it is important for South African consumers to urge the government to refrain from implementing another ban if a second COVID-19 wave comes to pass,” said Clement. “The pandemic has been awful for millions of South Africans and the economy as a whole. Recreating prohibition in the process just made the situation worse.”

SAB said earlier this month that as a result of the 12-week ban on alcoholic drink sales by the government, the company is cancelling R2.5-billion of investment that had been planned for this year and it is also reviewing further R2.5-billion investment plans for next year.

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

US Prohibition: The Noble Experiment?

Podcast by The History Society

Prohibition in the United States was dubbed the “Noble Experiment”. For 13  long, dry, and dreary years, the government aimed to keep alcohol out of the hands of its citizens, creating a litany of unintended consequences that continue to have an impact today.

In this episode, Yaël Ossowski describes the rise of the “dry” campaigners who sought Prohibition to remove alcohol from society, the bootlegging gangsters who built their fortunes, and the millions of Americans who became scofflaws in the face of corruption, violence, and disorder.

The Consumer Choice Center:  https://consumerchoicecenter.org/

Follow us on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/thshistorysociety/

Intro  and Outro Music: Fearless First by Kevin MacLeod Link:  https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/song/3742-fearless-first

License:  http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

Prohibition has never and will never lead to smokers quitting

SA should learn from Australian tobacco policy failures, and stick to education rather than over-regulation

Picture: 123RF/CHONES CHONES

It is now beyond clear that SA’s continued ban on tobacco-related products has been a total disaster in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. The government loses R35m in tax revenue every day, and South Africans continue to smoke as before.

What comes after the lockdown ends? Research from the Australian government suggests that there should be a relaxation of tobacco policy given that country’s own failures. SA should take note.

Recent evidence from Australia illustrates the folly of trying to reduce demand through regulation, not that we necessarily need to look beyond the lived experiences of our friends and relatives here at home. On July 16, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare published its 2019 National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS).

The survey asked more than 22,000 Australians about the performance of their government’s health policies, which includes tobacco control. Australia introduced plain packaging for tobacco products in December 2012, and is the only market for which longer-term data exists on policy effectiveness.

NDSHSs were conducted before and after this policy became operative, giving an indication as to whether it has succeeded.

Plain packaging was introduced to make tobacco products less appealing and thus lead to lower demand. But the NDSHS findings are not surprising and confirm what economists have known for decades: regulation and, at worst prohibition, does not lead to lower demand.

The percentage of daily smokers in Australia up to the introduction of plain packaging had been declining at a steady rate of 0.46% a year for more than two decades. After 2012, the decline slowed — not accelerated — to just 0.26% a year.

Before plain packaging, three in 10 Australians had no interest in giving up smoking — and that number did not decline afterwards. This is not to say that plain packaging was the cause of an increased demand, but rather that it certainly did not reduce demand.

Author’s analysis

Where plain packaging and other regulations can be blamed for an increased demand is with illegal loose-leaf tobacco, consumed either in roll-your-own form or inserted into empty cigarette tubes. The proportion of Australian smokers consuming these products increased by 37% after plain packaging was introduced, meaning that the 10.5% of illicit tobacco users in 2010 became 14.4% in 2019.

A May 2020 KPMG study agrees, but puts the latest numbers far higher for overall consumption of illicit tobacco (which includes unbranded loose tobacco, along with contraband and counterfeit product) — there has been an 80% increase in demand, from 11.5% in 2012 to 20.7% in 2019.

The Covid-19 lockdown regulations in SA have similarly caused the demand for illicit tobacco to skyrocket. Indeed, the only reason smokers aren’t rioting in the streets of SA is because they have managed to source cigarettes from the “black market”, which is short for “the economy doesn’t care about your politics”.

Prohibition cannot work: demand will always be supplied. Governments should find innovative ways of decreasing demand, such as education and information about alternatives to smoking, such as vaping.

The Covid-19 ban on tobacco product sales is, however, the more pressing problem … and has likely led to the smoking of far more hazardous cigarettes

The data shows that plain packaging is not helping Australian smokers quit. It might even be contributing to growth in the illicit tobacco trade. The law of unintended consequences, as with all policy, makes its presence known. It would therefore be unwise, reckless even, for SA to introduce plain packaging as contemplated in the Control of Tobacco Products and Electronic Delivery Systems Bill of 2018.

As I pointed out at the time of the bill’s public participation process, the impact assessment undertaken by the government was woefully inadequate. That it did not factor in the poor performance of the plain packaging experience in Australia, goes to show that the bill was ill-considered.

President Cyril Ramaphosa should send the bill back to parliament, where any plain packaging provisions should be removed.

Moreover, the bill’s anticipated over-regulation of vaping products should also be revised, as vaping might prove to be one of the more effective means of getting people to quit smoking. If there is to be regulation, it must be proportionate and reflect the simple fact that vaping isn’t smoking, and they should not be treated in the same way. Public Health England argues that it is at least 95% less harmful than cigarette smoking, and e-cigarettes have also been found much better for quitting smoking, compared with nicotine replacement treatment.

The Covid-19 ban on tobacco product sales is, however, the more pressing problem. It has cost government more than R1bn a month in revenue since March, and has likely led to the smoking of far more hazardous cigarettes than would be available on the legal market. It is not government’s place, nor is it evidently within its expertise, to dictate lifestyle choices, even and perhaps especially during this particular pandemic.

Even the National Institute for Communicable Diseases has admitted that there is little to no evidence linking smoking to severe Covid-19 cases.

If SA does not wish to learn from history, which teaches the lesson that prohibition has never and can never work, then perhaps we can learn a lesson from experiences in other countries right now. The Australian experiment with plain packaging shows that at best it has no influence on the prevalence of smoking, and at worst might lead to an increased demand for illicit tobacco products, already a major problem in SA.

If our government insists on being involved in the lifestyle choices of citizens, it must stick to education and information, and leave the disastrous ideas of over-regulation and prohibition in the dustbin of history.

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

Blatant Tobacco Sales Bans are Terrible for Public Health

Al Capone is one of the most infamous criminals in history. Countless books and movies have elevated his name to a level that even during his lifetime, few imagined possible. His crime-syndicate, the “Chicago Outfit” fought bloody gang wars over the production and supply of illegal alcohol. The United States was in the midst of the era of alcohol prohibition, and supplying people with black market products was a lucrative business. Through a lack of health inspection, thousands died from bootlegged liquor, and the policy had fuelled the rise of some the worst mobster imaginable. The U.S had to change its constitution again to end the prohibition of alcohol.

The South African government was undoubtedly worried about the same thing when it gradually eased rules and regulations for the sale of alcohol during this pandemic. That said, the same logic is not being applied for tobacco products. Cigarettes and e-cigarettes remain illegal, leaving a large part of the population with no choice but to consult the black market, particularly since the ban came unannounced at the end of March. This policy decision has caused international attention — the BBC writes: “What was perfectly legal two months ago has turned thousands of people into potential criminals.”

Black market cigarettes don’t operate according to quality control and have been shown to poison their users in a literal sense.  

The criminal justice implications of enforcing such a stringent ban are fatal. Black market cigarette dealers have been shown to contribute to the rise of international terrorism. A 2015 report by the French Union for Industrial Production points to the fact that 20 percent of illicit cigarette sales finance international terrorism (according to the French Centre d’analyse du terrorisme in 2015). This number has been filtered out of a total number of 75 international prosecutions involving large-scale counterfeiting of tobacco products. Does feeding international crime with willing customers serve the interests of South Africa?

The government is right in pointing out that smoking isn’t a healthy habit. Even though the effect of tobacco during the COVID-19 pandemic is scientifically disputed, it makes intuitive sense for consumers to try and reduce their tobacco consumption during an international health crisis involving a disease that causes acute respiratory problems. However, a complete ban on cigarettes is set to make things much worse. Black market cigarettes don’t operate according to quality control and have been shown to poison their users in a literal sense.

As a consumer and analyst from Luxembourg, I am not fond of all the public policy responses of my government.

Counterfeit cigarettes use three times more cadmium—which can cause renal failure or injuries to the liver—and arsenic—which has been proven to cause lung cancer. These cigarettes have also been found to contain hair, cement, and mouse faeces. UK-estimates released by the Local Government Association has put the level of cadmium in counterfeit cigarettes at around 500 percent higher than ordinary brands, making them considerably more dangerous to consume.

As a consumer and analyst from Luxembourg, I am not fond of all the public policy responses of my government. And yet, despite having a more substantial rate of COVID-19 infections than South Africa, the Luxembourgish government has not chosen to reduce the availability of cigarettes or vaping products. This shows that the South African response is not measured or thought through 

Consumers will be hurt by the decision to continue a blatant ban on tobacco products and harm-reducing products such as e-cigarettes. It is now time for the government to change course.

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

Consumers and Bar/Restaurant Owners say “YES” to HB 536

The Consumer Choice Center endorses a safe and timely return to business for areas with a lower risk for coronavirus outbreak

Raleigh, N.C. – Yesterday, the NC State Senate passed HB 536, the bill intended to safely re-open bars and restaurants in accordance with the guidelines set by both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

Yaël Ossowski, Deputy Director of the Consumer Choice Center said:

“Giving business owners the legal means to safely open and serve customers is now a necessity,” said Ossowski. “Establishments in high-risk areas should be advised to remain closed until health authorities say otherwise, but that decision must be with business owners.

“We all recognize the risks from the spread of COVID-19, but we must now trust that both owners of bars and restaurants and consumers will be responsible and follow the guidelines set by state and federal authorities.

“A one-size-fits-all approach for the entire state, in which cities and counties face all the same restrictions despite differing numbers of cases, is no longer tenable after more than two months of lockdown,” said Ossowski.

“This bill includes provisions for reopening safely in both outdoor and inside spaces, as well as endorsing modernized alcohol policy that favors all consumers and residents of North Carolina. Gov. Cooper should sign this bill and give North Carolinians renewed confidence to safely re-engage in commerce.”

“The Legislature should also look to make permanent changes to our alcohol laws to better empower consumers and offer them more choice. Loosening restrictions on how food and drink establishments can serve, offer, and deliver their products should be immediately taken into consideration,” said Ossowski.

More about our proposal for Modernized Alcohol Policies here.

The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

Originally published here.

New York, Texas Ease Alcohol Delivery Law Amid COVID-19 Crisis

A restaurant employee pours a glass of white wine at a table with glasses of red wine.

MOST STATES DON’T ALLOW CONSUMERS TO PURCHASE ALCOHOL ONLINE FOR DELIVERY.

Around the country, law against alcohol delivery are strict, which presents an interesting situation given the mass social isolation from the COVID-19 outbreak. 

According to Consumer Choice Center, Arizona, Florida, Hawaii, Nebraska, and New Hampshire are the only states that allow consumers to buy alcohol online and have it delivered to their home. Alabama, Oklahoma, and Utah ban all alcohol shipments entirely. All of the other states fall in between in terms of allowing shipments of wine, shipments of alcohol after an in-store purchase, and shipments from wineries in the state. 

“Now is as good a time as any to consider changing these laws and empowering consumers to receive alcohol at home just like any other product,” said Yaël Ossowski, Consumer Choice Center deputy director, in a post on the organization’s website. 

In New York, which now leads the country in the amount of COVID-19 cases, the State Liquor Authority announced a change in the law in which restaurants and bars can sell wine and liquor for takeout or delivery, but the consumer must also purchase food. The change was meant to support restaurants that are facing declining sales due to the statewide closure of dining rooms. Restaurants and bars in New York were already allowed to sell beer for takeout or delivery. 

Following New York’s lead, Gov. Greg Abbott announced Wednesday a waiver to allow restaurants and bars to deliver beer, wine, and mixed drinks with the purchase of food. He also told the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission to allow businesses to sell back unopened product back to manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers. 

In Ohio, no laws have changed, but restaurants and bars have been allowed to return unopened high proof liquor products bought within the past 30 days. The same is true for businesses that had to cancel events between March 12 and April 6. If the gathering ban in Ohio continues past April 6, then Ohio’s regulatory body will continue to allow the return of unopened product. 

More than half of states have closed dining areas and have limited restaurants and bars to takeout and delivery. Earlier in the week, President Donald Trump recommended that people do not gather in groups of more than 10. Meanwhile restaurants nationwide have seen sales plunge, and some foodservice organizations have asked the administration for financial relief. 

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

No crisis unused: Eurocare argues for a ban on alcohol sponsorship in sports

While the world is battling the Coronavirus crisis, the European Alcohol Policy Alliance (EUROCARE) is facing a different goliath: alcohol sponsorship… in sports? A head-scratcher of sorts, especially given that the sports industry will fall on hard times this year if COVID-19 drags on. With cancelled events and games, cutting the sports industry off from vital sponsorship income is cruel at best.

In the press release from EUROCARE, the group says:

“Millions of people – including children and young people – are exposed to alcohol sponsorship. The evidence is clear that alcohol marketing exposure is a cause of binge drinking and drinking onset among young people. It also influences their attitudes and increases their likelihood of developing problems with alcohol later in life.”

Naturally, these activists are not referring to specific evidence that points to this phenomenon. With children at a young age picking up smoking, including cannabis – both not advertised in any way – points to the conclusion that sponsorship is hardly the origin of substance abuse.

In fact, when we look at this problem we quickly figure out that it is not sponsorship in sports, or sponsorship altogether that is the problem for these groups, but alcohol in itself. They are the new prohibitionists, unable to halt until they have banned every last drop of fun. 

Ultimately, what sponsorship cannot be seen by children? Be it public advertisement in public transport or bus stops, or any TV channel or radio show: children can technically hear and see all advertising that adults have access to. The channels that are children-only already don’t feature these ads, and online portals such as YouTube allow for parental control that blocks all age-inappropriate pop-ups.

We should also stress that it should first and foremost be the obligations of parents to protect their children from harm, by educating them about appropriate and safe alcohol use. Delegating this responsibility to government agencies will culminate in an avalanche of bureaucracy that is not in the interest of consumer choice.

Banning ads in the name of protecting children is a backdoor to blatant bans on advertising for products altogether. Other vices are also at risk, as the press release also reveals:

“This research comes at a time when the place of gambling in sport has been called into question and we need to consider the propriety of linking any addictive and health-harming product with sport.”

The reality is this: consumers want products, and they want to enjoy vices such as alcohol. We should aim for responsible and educated consumers, as opposed to blatant patronising bans. Substance abuse is a real problem, yet we need to recognise that there are underlying problems that explain it, going beyond mere sponsorship. 

Whether or not alcohol is advertised has no impact on unemployment or any other personal hardship that leads to excesses in alcohol use. These problems need solving through different educational and social institutions, and most importantly through improved personal relationships. We as a society have responsibility to our friends and family, more than any governmental institution may proclaim to own.

Advertising plays an important role for consumers: it informs them about new and better products and allows for competition. Advertising is the extended arm of consumer choice, and ought to be protected.

COVID-19 and craft beer: Normally only 12 states allow delivery of all alcohol. Why is that?

COVID-19 has exposed many holes in America’s state alcohol laws. Maryland just suspended its shortsighted craft beer carryout purchase limits because it only legally allowed one case per customer. The likes of Colorado, California and even Texas are allowing bars and restaurants now to sell alcohol to-go, which is not normally legal, and now the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau is allowing distilled spirits permittees to produce hand sanitizer. Let freedom ring.

But without the current COVID-19 crisis this would normally not happen. Do you know how many states normally allow alcohol delivery legally? According to Yaël Ossowski, deputy director of the Consumer Choice Center (CCC), in a recent press release:

“Consumers can order thousands of household products and food from the internet, but prohibitions on shipping alcohol remain on the books. Instead of emergency laws allowing home delivery of alcohol for a short period of time, states should immediately move to make these laws permanent to increase consumer choice for every American. At present, 12 states allow for some method of delivery of all alcohol, and 31 states allow wine and beer to be purchased and shipped to consumers’ homes. Utah, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Alabama, Rhode Island, and Deleware currently bar alcohol deliveries to personal residences.

“Allowing for alcohol delivery will help consumers during the Covid-19 outbreak in the short term, but will also help boost economic activity and increase competition and options for consumers in the long term,” said Ossowski. “There are dozens of innovative apps and online services like Drizly and Thirstie that are beginning to offer alcohol delivery in real-time, but the legal status is uncertain.”

States should allow alcohol delivery and to-go purchases beyond this crisis

If you’re reading this, you’re probably sitting at home right now — just like millions of other Americans in the face of COVID-19. State alcohol restrictions are being temporarily lifted via emergency declarations issued by state legislators to help support restaurants and small businesses that will not normally be allowed to deliver alcohol to people’s homes or sell them to-go. Feels like now is a good time to make that permanent.

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

When we’re back to normal: Free up spirits sales

Prince Edward Island made an international stir on Thursday by closing its liquor and cannabis stores on the grounds they were not providing essential services and therefore should be shuttered in the face of the pandemic. That may well have been the right decision. But it likely caused millions of people to reflect that, while binge-viewing their favourite streaming service or relaxing after a day of Monopoly with the kids, it would be more than nice to relax with a glass of their favourite beverage or ingestive. No one favours substance abuse. But responsible enjoyment of their relaxant of choice is something adults should be free to choose to do.

Except that in many places in Canada, governments have not made that choice very easy. Ontario historically has been such a place. But in the 2018 provincial election now-Premier Doug Ford made a commitment to expand retail access and consumer choice for the 11.6 million Ontarians who consume alcohol. So far, Ford’s main push has been to expand retail sales by allowing alcohol to be sold at convenience stores. When his government announced this change in May 2019, most long-suffering Ontario alcohol consumers rejoiced. Unfortunately, prospects for their liberation soon dimmed because of a legal battle with The Beer Store. For obvious reasons, the whole question of market structures for alcohol sales is on the far back burner. But eventually this political struggle will resume. Here’s how spirits could help break the logjam.

As a foreign-owned corporate entity with a near-monopoly on the sale of beer, The Beer Store is a powerful force in the province. After Ford’s announcement, it threatened the government with a $1-billion lawsuit for breach of contract if the “Master Framework Agreement” was terminated. That agreement prohibits Ontario from allowing increased beer retail beyond 450 approved grocery stores until after 2025.

Although pro-consumer organizations have urged the government to call The Beer Store’s bluff, arguing that its legal position is weaker than its PR suggests, the premier seems unwilling to proceed without first negotiating with The Beer Store. That’s a decidedly un-populist win for corporatism at the expense of Ontario consumers.

Yet the Ford government isn’t entirely handcuffed by the agreement Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals signed onto in 2015. If Ford wants to show his commitment to increasing consumer access in Ontario, but without ripping up the Master Framework Agreement, he should simply expand product variety at the 450 approved grocery stores provincewide. With the stroke of a pen, the province could allow approved grocery stores to sell spirits alongside the beer and wine they already sell. Nothing in the agreement prohibits this, and it would make an immediate impact for Ontario consumers.

Such a move would clearly demonstrate the Ford government’s commitment to greater choice for alcohol consumers and would let The Beer Store know the province is serious about liberalizing markets for alcohol.

Allowing spirits to be sold in grocery stores would also create a fairer marketplace for consumers, retailers and producers. As it currently stands, spirits can’t be sold in grocery stores. This obviously disadvantages both the consumers who prefer spirits, and the stores that would willingly sell these products. It also seriously disadvantages local Ontario distillers, as their products are prohibited from being sold alongside beer and wine. Frankly, it is silly that foreign-made wine and beer can be sold at grocery stores, but Ontario-made spirits, made with Ontario grains, can’t be.

Beyond expanding consumer choice and market equity, giving spirits the green light would help prepare the province for a full-scale rollout once convenience stores are brought into the retail market. Letting grocery stores sell spirits would pave the way for convenience stores to do the same, and that would be a significant boon to consumers who at the moment can only choose between a government monopoly or a government-protected corporate one.

For the moment, Doug Ford’s hands may be tied by past agreements and negotiations with The Beer Store. Luckily for lovers of spirits, there is an easy policy change that could expand access while avoiding a costly legal battle. For the sake of everyone who enjoys a cold drink in Ontario, let’s hope Ford follows through and values consumers over corporatism.

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

Pregnancy health warning labels are biased and flawed

When I was in the 7th form, our biology teacher showed us a smoker’s lung model followed by a brief explanation of the negative effects of smoking. But the model of the damaged lungs itself was enough to educate me, a 13-year-old, about the health consequences I would have to deal with if I ever choose to smoke. This is the essence of freedom that penetrates our adult lives: free choices made in full awareness of the responsibility that follows. Be it alcohol, cigarettes, or sugar. Complex maths formulas we are taught in school are important, but learning about the importance of preserving our consumer choice in the face of nannyism even more so. 

By introducing various obligatory warning labels such as  “smoking can cause a slow and painful death”, governments all around the world have been trying to compensate for failures of their education systems to effectively convey these messages. Because if everyone knows that smoking isn’t the healthiest habit, they won’t do it, right? 

No, they would and should be free to do so. If a consumer is determined to buy a pack of cigarettes, no warning label, and no tax will affect his behaviour. With a plethora of lifestyle regulations, nannying is now seen as inherent to governments. But this is wrong. It is the role of educational establishments to educate us about the effects of smoking or alcohol, but governments are there to guarantee we are able to exercise our freedom to choose as long as we do not cause harm to other people.

In February, Food Standards Australia and New Zealand announced its intention to make labelling on alcoholic drinks mandatory.  The new label will include the words “health warning” in bold red text, and “alcohol can cause lifelong harm to your baby”. How obvious, one would say. According to a poll conducted by YouGov, 70 per cent of Australians were aware that drinking while pregnant contributed to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder. And yet some 70 per cent of respondents supported changing labels on alcohol bottles.

Nothing is wrong with Australians wanting to see warning labels on their alcoholic beverages. The question is whether it’s achieved through government compulsion or voluntarily. In Australia, the existing rules adopted in 2011 make using a symbol with a line through a silhouette of a pregnant woman drinking a glass of wine voluntary. It is of course in the interest of the industry to live up to the expectations of its consumers, but changes to the new labels would cost $400 million in producing new labels. The higher the price of production, the higher the price for consumers.

What about adult male and female (non-pregnant) consumers of alcohol? Is it fair that they would need to pay a higher price for alcoholic products to educate pregnant women about the negative effect of consuming alcohol during pregnancy? Pregnancy health warning labels are biased and ignore the interests of a far wider group of consumers who are hurt by such regulations. It really is cheaper, more sustainable and generally more socially beneficial to invest in proper school education. 

At a time when governments are increasingly targeting our consumer choice, we should be prepared to fight back. One drop of nannyism doesn’t make a storm cloud, but a huge accumulation of them does. I don’t like living in a world where I’m treated like a child who doesn’t know that an excess of alcohol, smoking, sugar and [insert other product deemed dangerous] else may cause harm and so needs to be directed away from them.  You?


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

Scroll to top