Warning: This Column Could Be Dangerous

Americans must have a fetish for warning labels. At least that’s the only explanation I can think of that makes any sense.

Now I have nothing against warning people about unsuspected hazards and dangers which may befall them if they don’t know any better. Heaven knows I need all the warnings I can get sometimes.

But some of them, you have to admit, are kind of silly. And if there weren’t already enough of those silly warning labels sticking around out there, someone just had to come up with another one.

This time the men and women elected to help run our country, better known collectively as Congress, have decided it is about time to require warning labels be stuck on all alcoholic beverage containers sold in the United States.

You know the kind of warning labels they’re talking about. Just like the warning labels that change from time to time on the sides of cigarette packages and say … WARNING. Smoking May Cause Lung Cancer, Heart Disease, Emphysema, And May Complicate Pregnancies. Or … WARNING. Smoking By Pregnant Women May Result in Fetal Injury, Premature Birth, And Low Birth Weight.

The new warning labels would appear somewhere on the bottle and would offer a message of caution like … WARNING. Women Should Not Drink Alcoholic Beverages During Pregnancy Because of the Risk of Birth Defects. Or…WARNING. Consumption of Alcoholic Beverages Impairs Your Ability to Drive a Car or Operate Machinery And May Cause Other Health Problems.

Supporters of the legislation say these warning labels are the best way to inform people about the serious health and safety risk of alcohol.

Is this that difficult for people to figure out on their own? Besides, who will read the the warning labels anyway?

It’s not the people who smoke that read the warning labels on cigarette packages. It’s the people who don’t smoke and are trying to give smokers reasons why they should stop that read the warning labels. And some deft-thinking individuals even manage to come up with the argument—”Hey, but I’m not pregnant!”

It really isn’t very likely that warning labels on alcohol will be treated any differently. How many people do you know that even read a bottle before they drink?

Maybe the warning labels could be put on the bottom of the container so when the person has the bottle tipped back looking for that last drop in the bottle he’ll be able to read the label. You know, like the TV dinners that had pictures imprinted under the food in the tinfoil tray. Then again, I don’t think that’s quite the idea the warning-label proponents have in mind.

Opposition to the new warning labels has a counter argument just as ridiculous as the people in favor of the idea. Those opposing the idea do so because they say the warning labels will have little beneficial effect by giving consumers only part of the story, and this may do more harm than good, because it will confuse people.

Confuse people? What do they mean confuse people? What warning can you print on a bottle that will confuse people?

It’s the warning signs on the side of the road that say BUMP where there is no bump that confuse people.

Those silly little WARNING. DO NOT REMOVE UNDER PENALTY OF LAW labels sewn onto sofa cushions and mattresses confuse people—until they read the fine print and figure out the sofa/mattress police won’t be out to arrest them when they rip the warning label off.

Most of this is just plain-old, ordinary common sense. Think about it. If people are really that concerned about the well-being of others, EVERYTHING should have a warning label on it.

WARNING. This Column May Give You Headaches Resulting From Eyestrain if Read in an Improperly Lighted Area.