The effectiveness of alcohol warning labels in the prevention of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder: A brief review

Gerald Thomas, Ginny Gonneau, Nancy Poole, Jocelynn Cook


Thomas, G., Gonneau, G., Poole, N., & Cook, J. (2014). The effectiveness of alcohol warning labels in the prevention of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder: A brief review. The International Journal Of Alcohol And Drug Research, 3(1), 91-103 doi:10.7895/ijadr.vX3i1.126

Aims and Method: Alcohol warning labels are one way of influencing alcohol consumption in pregnancy and thereby preventing Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). This scoping review describes the literature on the influence of alcohol warning labels (AWLs) for changing attitudes and behavior related to alcohol use in pregnancy; draws on the larger literature related to effectiveness of AWLs which may have relevance to FASD prevention; and situates AWLs within a continuum of strategies to prevent FASD.

Findings: Our review of the published literature suggests that while AWLs are popular with the public, their effectiveness for changing drinking behavior is limited. Available research suggests that for maximum effect, AWLs should speak clearly about the consequences of alcohol consumption and should also be coordinated and integrated with other, broader social messaging campaigns. Use of AWLs related to alcohol and pregnancy must be carefully considered; their messaging has the most influence on low-risk drinkers, and to date they have not been shown to change the drinking behavior of those who drink heavily or binge during pregnancy. However, AWLs have been shown to stimulate conversations about alcohol consumption and may play a role in shifting social norms to reduce risks.

Conclusions: Multiple measures are required to increase societal awareness of the risks of drinking in pregnancy, influence alcohol consumption by pregnant women, and improve the quality of support for women with alcohol and related health and social problems.


alcohol; warning labels; pregnancy; Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

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