Unhealthy Labels

Senators robert byrd of West Virginia and Strom Thurmond of South Carolina may be dismissed as not coming from wine-producing California. But they have it right when they seek to overturn a recent government authorization for the wine industry to advertise "health benefits" on its labels.

It's a free country, and if consumers wish to believe in a health benefit from popsicles or pretzels they're welcome to do so. But the government should shy away from authorizing such claims.

In the case at hand, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms had approved a wine industry request for two new labels urging buyers to learn about the "benefits" of drinking wine. The bureau ought to know from its experience with the entrenched, big-bucks tobacco industry that, given a toehold, a purveyor of potentially habit-forming substances will lavish lobbying money on lawmakers to keep any such endorsement.

Government should not appear to endorse products of any kind - especially ones that many consumers abuse to the point of endangering themselves and others.

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