The Australian government, after successfully overcoming hurdles to the tobacco plain packaging, is now mulling suggestions to include warnings on the labels of alcoholic drinks, especially those geared towards expecting or pregnant women.
A parliamentary inquiry, spurred by the rising number of foetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), recommended tough new warning labels should be added to alcohol products such as on cans and bottles, as well as on advertisements effective January 2014 once the bill gets approved by the federal government. Even pregnancy kits will bear the same tough new warning labels, citing the dangers of drinking while pregnant.
The federal parliamentary inquiry was alarmed when it discovered that more than 50 per cent of pregnant women, despite national health guidelines recommendations to abstain, continued to drink alcohol, risking the life and development of the fetus inside their womb.
Babies born with FASD, a consequence of booze intake while expecting, have smaller heads and have brain defects that lead to behavioural, language, speech, vision or hearing problems.
FASD cannot be cured, but it is highly preventable, if mothers will be warned of the exact implications of their booze taking while pregnant.
"The social, emotional and financial costs of FASD to individuals, their families and the community are devastating," committee chair Graham Perrett said, noting FASD was an important health issue that required a national plan of action.
Apart from forced health warnings on alcoholic drinks and packaging, the committee likewise called for better tools for diagnosis and the development of an awareness campaign.
"FASD may masquerade as naughty behaviour, poor parenting, lack of discipline, or simple-mindedness. However, it is none of these things," Mr Perrett said in his introduction to the report.
"While the risk of FASD increases with the quantity of alcohol a pregnant woman consumes, what is not widely understood is that even small amounts of alcohol, at critical times, can result in irrevocable damage to the developing fetus.
"Time and again during the inquiry, the committee heard about the devastation that can be caused by prenatal alcohol exposure."
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