SYDNEY, Australia -- Australia's liquor industry today (tomorrow, Aussie time) launched a voluntary program to label its products with health warnings, possibly to preempt future criticism that it is contributing to excessive drinking that is part of the national culture.
About 80% of alcohol sold in the country -- beer, wine and spirits -- will carry the warnings, primarily aimed at teenagers and pregnant women, said Trish Worth of DrinkWise Australia, a group funded by the alcohol industry.
The group, founded in 2005, aims to overturn the traditionally benign view that Australians have had of drinking, even among teenagers. According to DrinkWise, the average Australian starts drinking alcohol at 15½ years of age and more than a quarter of 14- to 19-year-olds are putting themselves at risk of harm at least once a month.
"We see physically mature teenagers and assume that their brains are mature, but they are not," Worth told reporters. "We have to challenge ideas that are so traditional and historic in Australia."
The first few products with warning labels are already in stores but most others will introduce them gradually over the next few months, she said.
The three principal messages are "Kids and Alcohol Don't Mix," ''It is Safest Not to Drink While Pregnant," and "Is Your Drinking Harming Yourself or Others?"
The voluntary move comes ahead of an expected government decision later this year to make warnings mandatory in Australia, similar to some 14 other countries including the U.S.
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