Northern Territories Alcohol Labels Study

photo of CISUR's new alcohol warning labels affixed to bottles in the Whitehorse liquor store
CISUR's alcohol warning labels affixed to products in the Whitehorse liquor store. Credit: Kate Vallance

The Northern Territories Alcohol Labels Study, led by CISUR and Public Health Ontario (PHO), is the first real-world evaluation of alcohol warning labels in Canada. The primary aim of this study is to examine the impact of alcohol warning labels as a tool for increasing consumer awareness of alcohol-related health risks and supporting more informed and safer alcohol consumption. This project, led by Erin Hobin (PI) and Tim Stockwell (Co-PI), tests the population-level impact of alcohol warning labels using alcohol sales data and surveys in an intervention site (Whitehorse, Yukon) and comparison site (Yellowknife, Northwest Territories). The study builds on previous research testing the design and acceptability of alcohol warning labels among consumers in Canada.

Several publications from the project were released in early 2020. The study protocol, which is available open-access in JMIR Research Protocols, outlines the original design and modifications a result of interference by the alcohol industry. Initial study results, available open-access as part of the Special Issue on Alcohol Policy and Public Health in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, showed increased support for alcohol policies as a result of increased knowledge of alcohol-related cancer risk. These findings are also highlighted in a blogpost for the Institute of Alcohol Studies and in an infographic poster. Another paper in the International Journal of Drug Policy demonstrated the impact of the evidence-based labels on processing of messaging information and motivation to reduce alcohol consumption.

A special section on alcohol warning labels in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs with six publications from the study was published in May 2020, along with media released from University of Victoria and JSAD. The JSAD research found that the labels reduced alcohol sales and people who bought alcohol with the labels better remembered national drinking guidelines and warning risks about cancer. In addition, a media analysis concluded the majority of media coverage of the Yukon study supported the use of labels, and an analysis of the alcohol lobby's arguments around Yukon’s right to affix the labels on alcohol containers found that their arguments held no water and governments had a duty to inform citizens they were selling a product that could cause cancer or risk leaving themselves exposed to future civil lawsuits. 

Journal articles

Project publications

Related labelling publications


Label images

Related news stories

 Coverage of study resumption:

Coverage of study halt:

Media at launch:

Other related news stories:

Blog posts


Alcohol industry communication

Email correspondence from Canadian alcohol producers to Yukon government

We have compiled email correspondence from Canadian alcohol industry representatives to the Yukon Liquor Corporation in late 2017 and early 2018 regarding their participation in a research study with Public Health Ontario and the Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research to evaluate the impact of new alcohol warning labels in Yukon. These emails were obtained using the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act by a third party for a story by journalist James Wilt that appeared in the Globe and Mail regarding alcohol industry actions that resulted in temporarily closing down our study. We have compiled the emails that were released that came from industry lobbyists working on behalf of various Canadian alcohol producers. These emails are referenced in a paper on the legal ramifications of the industry’s interference in this project which is now published as part of a special issue in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

Letter from BC craft brewing association

A letter was also written on behalf of a British Columbian craft brewing association to the Vice-President of Research at the University of Victoria in late 2017 expressing similar reservations about this project.

Photos, webinars, posters and powerpoints

About this project

Also known as the Northern Territories Alcohol Labels Study, this study is based on four years of preliminary research in Ontario, BC and the Yukon, and looks to evaluate the impacts on awareness, knowledge and behaviour of alcohol consumers of a labelling intervention implemented in the Whitehorse, Yukon government liquor store in comparison with the two government liquor stores in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. Three warning labels were introduced in Whitehorse during the intervention period between November 2017 and July 2018: a cancer warning, national drinking guidelines, and standard drink information. Baseline surveys and two waves of follow-up surveys were completed in Whitehorse and Yellowknife with liquor store customers. Shortly after the intervention launched, Canadian alcohol industry lobby groups interfered with the study forcing a pause in the labelling and removal of the cancer warning. Full details of the study design are available in the publication outlining the protocol. 

Progress to date

Despite the study being interrupted by Canadian alcohol industry lobby groups, the intervention was successfully completed. Data analyses are currently underway with a number of publications forthcoming. 

Funding bodies

Health Canada, Substance Use and Addictions Program


  • Hobin, Erin (PI)
  • Dr. Tim Stockwell (Co-PI)
  • Hammond, D.
  • Greenfield, T.
  • Paradis, C.
  • Vallance, Kate
  • Weerasinghe, A.
  • Rosella, L.
  • Shokar, S.
  • Schoueri-Mychasiw, N.
  • McGavock, J.
  • Dr. Jinhui Zhao