New drinking guidelines may not go down smooth

If you’re doing dry January, maybe just keep at it for a while—at least, that’s what new national guidelines on alcohol intake would recommend.

Driving the news: The Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) is calling for health labels on alcohol to warn consumers about the cancer risks associated with drinking.

  • The CCSA also tightened its guidance on alcohol consumption, now advising people that just three-to-six drinks per week increases the risk of developing cancer.
  • That’s a major shift from the Centre’s previous guidelines, which recommended capping your adult beverages at 15 per week for men and 10 per week for women. 

Why it’s happening: 40% of Canadians already consume more than six drinks per week, but the CCSA believes many are unaware of the health risks.

  • The science on the health effects of drinking has advanced significantly over the past decade, according to the CCSA, and public understanding hasn’t kept up.
  • Many people also don’t even know what “one drink” means and have a hard time measuring their intake. (FYI: one drink = a bottle of beer, a 5oz glass of wine, or a 1.5oz shot of harder stuff.)

Why it matters: Putting health warnings on alcohol appears to cause people to drink less, but would be met with resistance by Canada’s US$50 billion alcohol industry.

  • A 2017 study in the Yukon found that cancer warnings on alcohol containers drove a 7% drop in per capita alcohol consumption and a 10% increase in awareness of health risks.

Zoom out: Canadians are already cutting back on alcohol consumption, and booze-free alternatives are enjoying a renaissance—slapping a scary-looking cancer warning on bottles could accelerate that trend.