A month after slapping bright red and yellow cancer warnings on bottles of wine, vodka and other tipple late last year, workers at the government-run liquor store in Whitehorse, Canada, took them all off again.
“Alcohol can cause cancer,” read the labels, part of a government-funded pilot program. They quickly drew phone calls and letters from representatives of some of the world’s biggest booze makers, who complained that the Yukon government had overstepped.
Whitehorse, population 22,000, is now at the epicenter of the decadesold fight over cancer warnings for alcohol. The battle, which pits the drinks industry against alcohol researchers and some public-policy makers, has flared recently as links between cancer and even modest drinking get renewed attention.
The alcohol industry generally acknowledges the link between heavy drinking and several types of cancers, but it also says that alcohol consumed in moderation can be part of a healthy lifestyle. Executives have said labeling that calls out cancer risks is inappropriate and can be confusing.
Lawmakers in some countries take a different view.