22 Nov 2012

Coroner calls for alcohol labelling

9:57 pm on 22 November 2012

A Coroner is calling for the mandatory labelling of alcohol containers warning of the dangers of excessive drinking.

Peter Ryan made the recommendation in his findings into the death of William Paki, who died in 2011 after drinking a large quantity of beer, wine and spirits at a family gathering.

A post mortem on William Paki's body revealed his blood alcohol level was four times the legal limit for driving.

A pathologist concluded his death was most likely due to the alcohol depressing his central nervous system, rather than the inhalation of vomit as a result of his intoxication.

Coroner Peter Ryan has also recommended starting an education campaign, to alert the public to the risk of death from excessive alcohol consumption.

A second coroner's finding released on Thursday into the death of a Sanson man, Joshua Taunoa, finds he also died as a result of acute alcohol toxicity after drinking half a bottle of vodka, and other alcohol.

Support for coroner

Dr Andrew Hearn a health researcher from the Health Promotion Agency says putting warning labels on alcohol on the risks of excessive consumption will only work if they're used in conjunction with other measures.

He says changes can be made in people's attitudes to drinking over time, but several measures are needed to do that.

He says they include such things as the Ease Up on the Drink campaign encouraging responsible drinking, as well as information websites and work with the community to lower liquor consumption.

A researcher into tobacco labelling has also voiced her support for the coroner's comments.

Dr Judith McCool from the School of Population Health at Auckland University says says putting warning labels on alcohol products could lead to people cutting back on their drinking.

She says research shows that the introduction of graphic labels on cigarette packets in 2008 did have an impact, particularly on young smokers.

Dr McCool says that's because the labels undermine the image the industry has invested in its product.

The Brewers Association, meanwhile, says some liquor producers are already putting warning labels on their packaging.

Jenny Cameron from the Brewers Association says in the past some liquor producers put labels on their packaging directing drinkers to a safe drinking website.

She says the labels will now promote the website for the Cheers campaign, an initiative launched last night by the liquor industry to promote healthy alcohol consumption.