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May 25, 2018 12.6°C

Let’s not talk about it

Posted on January 16, 2018 by Maple Creek

Wayne Litke

There are some things I want to ignore, but that does not mean I should remain ignorant in those areas. I do not want to know when my bank account is overdrawn, but I had better pay attention to it before bills and expenses result in financial ruin. Therefore, in the interest of education I am focusing on an interesting topic a lot of people will not want to hear about.
As part of our travels to the East Coast we purchased a bottle of wine from some of the provinces we visited. I also purchased a couple of bottles of unique hard liquor. Later, while relaxing and looking at one of the bottles, I noticed the label had a warning in small print. It stated that drinking alcohol could increase the risk of some types of cancer. I was shocked since I had never heard such a thing and wondered if it was a true. That was back in 2015 and I never heard anything more about it until last November when a newspaper story was published about the Yukon Liquor Corporation (YLC).
The government agency partnered with researchers and tackled the issue head-on and began tagging each bottle of alcohol with a warning label. It was the first time for such an initiative anywhere in the world.
The label simply stated men should not consume more than three drinks of alcohol per day and women should not have more than two drinks a day in order to reduce health risks associated with the product. It also recommended having two or more non-drinking days each week. The education campaign apparently included another label stating excess alcohol consumption can increase the risk of developing colon, breast and other cancers.
Erin Hobin, a research scientist for Public Health Ontario was the lead investigator for the project. She told Global News producers of alcohol promote their products as being fun and sexy, but only 20 per cent of Canadians are aware alcohol consumption can potentially increase the risk of developing cancer.
She said, “Around alcohol, we’ve sort of been silent about the health risks of alcohol, and the availability of alcohol is actually expanding in Canada instead of being restricted.” She noted the labeling initiative could develop into a more comprehensive education program such as the public awareness campaign about the dangers of smoking cigarettes.
Yukon was chosen for the test project since it has one of the highest rates of alcohol consumption and Hobin was hoping to begin a shift in drinking patterns. However, her good intentions and those of supporters at Yukon Liquor Corporation were dashed a few weeks into the initiative when companies that produce alcohol began pressuring the YLC.
According to a follow-up story by Tom Blackwell in the National Post, representatives of the alcohol industry threatened to sue the territorial government. They went the full distance questioning the authority of the YLC to apply the labels, alleged trademark infringement and suggested defamation was also being caused by the warning labels. They questioned the science linking alcohol and cancer and also complained to the administrator of the university whose researcher was overseeing the project. They claimed the scant information of labels was false, misleading and potentially dangerous. Their strategy was effective and the labeling project was halted in December.
The alcohol producers used tactics that other big companies have taken when someone questions the safety of their product. After all, which person, organization or government has the time and resources to refute bogus allegations made by mega companies. Intimidation through threats of legal action is a very powerful tool that multinational and special interest groups have adopted and are more than willing to use to further their agendas. In the end, the truth gets buried, the health of citizens is compromised and corporations bent on making massive profits continue to do so without concern for public wellbeing.
It is worthwhile to note that the International Agency for Research on Cancer concluded alcohol does trigger cancer which makes it a Group 1 carcinogenic. Other products in that grouping include cigarettes, asbestos, ionizing radiation, plutonium and at least 900 other products or processes.
The Canadian Cancer Society’s website lists alcohol as a possible factor in developing cancer. It states: Very few cancers have a single known cause. Most cancers seem to be caused by a complex mix of many risk factors…
According to the CCS, examples of risk factors for cancer include: “getting older, smoking, not protecting yourself from the sun, having certain genetic changes, being overweight or obese, not having a healthy diet, not getting enough physical activity, drinking alcohol, coming in contact with harmful chemicals at home or at work and having certain types of infection.”
While I contemplate that information, I am going to relax and have a drink (just one) and consider the lifestyle I lead.

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