Feds Say It's Okay to Drink a Little

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Talk about mixed messages. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Friday approved two new labels that tout the benefits of moderate drinking for use right alongside the current labels warning about the health dangers of alcohol. One of the new, government-approved messages: "The proud people who made this wine encourage you to consult your family doctor about the health effects of wine consumption." Not surprisingly, opponents of the labels -- public health officials, legislators and drunk driving activists -- are coming forward in droves. "The labels are a horrific mistake, " says TIME magazine health reporter Janice Horowitz. "It is a wine maker's marketing coup. Alcohol takes a terrible toll on Americans."

Horowitz acknowledges that alcohol consumption does have some salutory effects. Moderate consumption -- "the exact amount is not clear," she emphasizes -- does benefit the heart. But the negatives on the ledger are far more sizable, not the least of which is "the increased risk of breast cancer indicated by many studies," says Horowitz. Then there's drunken driving. "Placing contradictory labels on wine bottle will simply serve to dilute the impact of the warnings already there," she says. And few will toast to that.