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Signs About Ill Effects of Alcohol on Fetuses OKd

Times Staff Writer

The Los Angeles City Council approved an ordinance Wednesday requiring businesses that sell liquor to post signs warning pregnant women that drinking alcohol may be harmful to fetuses.

The ordinance, which was approved 12 to 0 without debate, affects 7,288 bars, restaurants and liquor stores where owners will have to put up a sign stating: “Warning. Drinking wine, beer and other alcoholic beverages during pregnancy can cause birth defects.”

Councilwoman Joy Picus said she proposed the measure after Los Angeles County members of the National Council of Alcoholism told her that fetal alcohol syndrome, caused by women who drink during pregnancy, is the third leading cause of birth defects in the nation, behind Down’s syndrome and spina bifida.

‘Problem That Is Preventable’

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“When they came to me, I had a pregnant daughter-in-law. I thought that this was a problem that is preventable and we could do something about,” Picus said. “No one told me when I was having babies 25-30 years ago that I shouldn’t drink. I think a lot of women now are unaware that drinking will affect their unborn baby.”

The measure, which goes to Mayor Tom Bradley, would make failure to post the signs a misdemeanor offense.

Stan Kyler, executive vice president of the California Restaurant Assn., said the Picus measure is “stupid” and doubts that it will prevent pregnant women from ordering drinks.

‘It’s a Stupid Idea’

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“It seems to me communication like that should be coming from doctors in a manner that will have more impact than a sign in a restaurant or bar,” Kyler said. “I think it’s a stupid idea. . . . It will be a nuisance for restaurateurs.”

Fred Ruffs, president of the California Liquor Dealers Assn., said his organization supports the measure.

New York City, Washington, Philadelphia and Columbus, Ohio, have similar ordinances.

One to three babies per 1,000 infants born in the nation are afflicted with fetal alcohol syndrome, according to statistics from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

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