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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.

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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.