- Alcohol-specific deaths in Scotland increase
- Health charities call for action to save lives from Scotlands biggest killers
- Australian ministers agree to visible pregnancy warning
- Three quarters of Scots back new controls to help protect children from alcohol advertising
- More accurate estimates for the burden of Alcohol on the Ambulance Service: around 1 in 6 callouts in Scotland are alcohol related
- How can alcohol labels be improved to help people make informed consumption choices
- Health experts call for better alcohol labelling
- Young people and their views on alcohol marketing
- Lowest alcohol sales in Scotland for 26 years
- Minimum unit pricing has lasting impact study shows
- Euros renews call for action to protect children from alcohol sports sponsorship
- Current alcohol labelling of little relevance to young adult drinkers
- Governments should step up efforts to tackle harmful alcohol consumption
- Scottish public and leading health experts back changes to alcohol labelling
- AFS calls for 65p minimum unit price for alcohol
- How will the main parties prevent harm from alcohol?
- Alcohol labelling reform is way past its sell by date
- Alcohol policy priorities for the next parliament
- Young drinkers believe prominent health warnings on alcohol could boost risk awareness
- Alcohol and the Workplace Effective Interventions
- Alcohol sales and consumption in Scotland during the pandemic
- Invitation to Tender - Alcohol Marketing Evidence Review
- How can we prevent alcohol deaths?
- Alcohol Deaths and Minimum Unit Pricing
- Young Scots show support for restrictions on alcohol marketing
- YoungScot Health Panel report on alcohol marketing and harm
- New release of alcohol related hospital admissions
- Better alcohol labelling – A way to boost awareness of the risk between alcohol and cancer?
- Alcohol Deaths Prevention Support
- Almost half of Scots in favour of minimum unit pricing
- NICE Guidelines on FASD Surveillance or Support?
- Leading health charities call for action in Scotland
- Health experts campaign for better understanding of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder
- Health experts call for alcohol labelling overhaul
- Survey shows Scots lockdown drinking rise caused by stress
- Alcohol Focus Scotland welcomes new WHO report on alcohol pricing
- Statistical analysis of off-trade alcohol sales in the year following MUP
- Alcohol Focus Scotland Review of statements of licensing policy 2018 to 2023
- Scotland needs to continue long-term focus on alcohol
- We need to continue long-term focus on alcohol
- Scots report changing drinking patterns during coronavirus lockdown
- Time to Blow the Whistle on Alcohol Sport Sponsorship
- Five top tips for working remotely
- New evidence demonstrates that alcohol ads lead to youth drinking
- Alcohol sales fall in first year of MUP
- First study published into under 18 drinkers post MUP
- Commission on Alcohol Harm calls for evidence
- Two years on Are annual functions reports reaching their potential?
- We need to do more to protect our children and young people
- Alcohol related hospital admissions for 2018 to 2019
- Hitting the right note in training
- Minimum unit pricing update
- Scottish primary children call for action on alcohol
- New Alcohol Deaths Prevention Support Now Available from AFS
- Its time to tell us whats in our drinks
- A home for Rory
- Making a bad impression - blog post
- Alcohol sales and MUP
- Alcohol-specific deaths 2018
- Five tips for upping the engagement factor
- Alcohol marketing and children debate in the Scottish Parliament
- Lowest alcohol sales in 25 years
- Research into fall in violence
- The Children's Parliament investigates an alcohol-free childhood
- Five tips for training delivery nerves
- Minimum unit pricing one year on
- More about sales data
- A family of resources it is all about prevention, education and resilience
- AFS publish Review of Licensing Board Annual Functions Reports 2017-2018
- Marketing unmasked dispelling the myths and taking a stand
- No place for alcohol marketing in sport
- Five pitfalls to avoid in evaluating training
- Scotland publishes first UK guidelines for diagnosing fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD)
- The Alcohol Framework 2018 Preventing Harm
- Scotlands new drug and alcohol strategy launched
- AFS welcome new alcohol strategy
- Recent reporting on alcohol sales data
- Cross-Party Group Improving Scotland's health: 2021 and beyond October 2018
- Diageo is failing to provide latest guidelines on their products
- Drinks companies keeping consumers in dark about risky drinking
- Reducing alcohol consumption can address health inequalities
- Alcohol-specific deaths remain at very high levels
- Oh Lila goes digital
- Global first alcohol policy set to save hundreds of Scots' lives
- AFS welcomes minimum unit pricing for alcohol
- Walker's crisp ad exposes children to alcohol marketing
- Truer picture of alcohol harm revealed
- Focus on link between alcohol and obesity
- Alcohol causes 3,700 deaths in Scotland every year
- Last Christmas for heavily discounted alcohol
- Scotland's licensing system needs clearer direction
- Minimum pricing blog
- Minimum pricing gets green light
- Reflections on GAPC 2017
- Alcohol brands and young people
- Time for honest conversations about alcohol
- Q&A on alcohol marketing
- UK children anxious about parents' drinking
- Quarter of Scots drink above guidelines
- Alcohol producers failing to inform public
- Concern over alcohol-related deaths
- We need to make it easier for people to drink less
- Worrying rise in alcohol-related deaths
- Minimum pricing will save lives
- Pocket money prices for alcohol continue
- Scotland's alcohol problem laid bare
- Cheap alcohol is costing Scotland dear
- One drink a day can increase breast cancer risk
- Poverty linked to increased harm from alcohol
- What next for reducing alcohol harm in Scotland?
- Scotland must do more to turn tide of alcohol harm
- Concern as funding for alcohol services cut
- Budget: No change in alcohol duty
- Scottish Government urged to curb alcohol marketing
- Consumers have the right to know health risks
- Chancellor urged to tackle cheap, strong cider in Budget
- Online help for families affected by alcohol
- Alcohol-free childhood is healthiest option
- SWA granted leave to appeal minimum pricing
- Drink drive warning
- Scottish Greens call for action on alcohol marketing
- Scottish Government receives European alcohol award
- SWA will appeal to UK Supreme Court
- Half of alcohol being sold under 50p per unit
- SWA urged to respect minimum pricing decision
- Alcohol and mental health are closely linked
- Minimum pricing can be implemented in Scotland
- Alcohol sold at pocket money prices
- Scotland has so much to gain from reducing how much we drink
- AFS welcomes revised alcohol consumption guidelines
- Emergency services face shocking levels of alcohol abuse
- Every child has the right to grow up safe from alcohol harm
- Public health must prevail over big business
- New toolkit to help children affected by family alcohol problems
- Price check reveals cheap cost of strong alcohol
- Sales increase underlines need for minimum pricing
- Time to kick alcohol out of sport
- Alcohol linked with stomach cancer
- AFS calls for compulsory health warnings on alcoholic drinks
- Are supermarkets 'responsible retailers' when it comes to alcohol?
- Scottish health charities call for excise duty rise to tackle cheap alcohol
- Alcohol campaigners unite to call for stronger protection from alcohol advertising to children
- New resource for people concerned about alcohol in their community
- Minimum pricing decision delayed until summer
- No completely 'safe' level of drinking
- New alcohol guidelines published
- Minimum pricing - European court ruling
- Alcohol fuels ambulance assaults
- 82% of Scots agree drink driving is unacceptable
- Scotland's alcohol strategy - what next?
- Scotland leads way in evidence-based alcohol policy
- New report reveals impact of alcohol on emergency services
- Alcohol: a global concern
How can alcohol labels be improved to help people make informed consumption choices
Dr Elena D Dimova and Danielle Mitchell
Alcohol continues to be a major cause for concern in Scotland, with 24% of adults drinking at hazardous levels. It causes a range of health conditions including at least seven types of cancer, although public knowledge of the direct health effects of alcohol remains poor. Alcohol labelling can provide people with health information and help them to make decisions about what products to purchase and how much to consume.
In the UK, alcohol labels are required by law to include the volume of the container, the drink’s strength (alcohol by volume, ABV) and whether common allergens are present. Alcohol labels are also expected to include information on units, the Chief Medical Officers’ (CMO) low risk drinking guidelines and advice on drinking during pregnancy; however, these are not mandatory or regulated, but are voluntary. The voluntary nature of the information included on labels falls on both the government to provide the industry with suggestions as to what to include on labels and industry funded organisations, such as The Portman Group, who are responsible for the naming, packaging and promotion of alcoholic products in the UK. In practice, only a small number of products meet these expectations: a review of alcohol labels in 2019 found that over 70% do not include the official low-risk drinking guidelines.
What can we learn about alcohol labels?
Given the failures of the industry to include health and nutritional information on alcohol labels, the public health community are calling for alcohol labelling to include mandatory information. This information includes the range of health effects caused by alcohol (e.g. cancer, liver cirrhosis etc.) and basic nutritional guidance, such as calorie and sugar content. For a mandatory approach to alcohol labels to be implemented, it is necessary to gain an understanding on effective labelling approaches.
We undertook a world-wide review, commissioned by Alcohol Focus Scotland, to understand what impact health messaging and product information on alcohol labels have on people. Specifically, we wanted to find out how effective alcohol labelling is in increasing people’s attention to labels; understanding and recall of information on labels; and prompting people to think about and change their drinking behaviour. We also wanted to find out what makes an alcohol label effective to inform future labelling policies.
We brought together information from 73 research studies on alcohol labelling, published across the world. We also looked at available research on tobacco and foods high in fat, sugar or salt, to find out what can be learned from existing labelling in those fields. Based on these studies, we identified several ways in which alcohol warning labels could be used to effectively raise awareness of alcohol-related harms and reduce alcohol consumption:
- The use of large, colourful labels on the front of alcohol products increases label visibility and message salience.
For example, colourful pictograms (e.g. drinking driving and pregnancy pictograms) that stand out from the packaging itself, with these ideally displayed on the front of the label.Similar findings emerged from the field of foods high in fat, sugar and/or salt. The use of specific colours has also been suggested in the tobacco field with darker colours shown to reduce product attractiveness.
- Health warnings that focus on the short-term alcohol-related risks (e.g. violence and accidents) and those linking alcohol to specific diseases, such as cancer, are effective in raising awareness of the harms of drinking and prompting people to consider drinking less.
For example, a recent real-world study in Canada found that cancer warning labels get noticed and increase knowledge that alcohol can cause cancer.
- Explicit, negatively framed statements, especially statements that contain the phrase “health warning”, might motivate people to drink less.
Examples of this include, statements about drinking during pregnancy and potential harm to the unborn baby.Negatively framed statements may be particularly effective among people who drink at harmful levels. Although graphic health warnings are widely used to communicate tobacco harm, we do not know whether these would be effective in reducing alcohol consumption.
- The most effective way to help people make healthier choices may be to communicate unit content per serving, in addition to a graphical representation of what percentage of the weekly recommended amount a serving size represents.
Lessons could be learned from research on foods high in fat, sugar and/or salt where such information is communicated in the form of colour-coded schemes.
Alcohol labels provide a direct opportunity to help people make decisions about what they purchase and consume, in addition to increasing awareness and knowledge of alcohol related harms. To achieve this, alcohol labels should include clear health warnings that stand out from the rest of the product packaging using prescribed and colourful designs that cover the range of health effects caused by alcohol. Alcohol labels should also include nutritional information, such as calorie and sugar content, like those already included on the packaging of food.
About the authors: Dr Elena D Dimova is a Research Fellow at Glasgow Caledonian University. Her research focuses on reducing alcohol-related harm in different groups. Some of her recent projects include a review on men’s alcohol consumption in the context of becoming a father (funded by The Institute of Alcohol Studies) and a review of alcohol interventions among LGBTQ+ adults. She is also involved in studies that look at the impact of Minimum Unit Pricing on homeless and street drinkers (funded by CSO) and the impact of alcohol and tobacco availability on the health and wellbeing of people in Scotland (funded by ESRC).
Email: Elena.Dimova@gcu.ac.uk Twitter: @ ElenaDDimova
Danielle Mitchell recently completed her PhD within the Institute for Social Marketing and Health at the University of Stirling. Her main research focus has been on adolescents’ responses to standardised tobacco packaging, the latest tobacco control policy in the UK, and further packaging measures to dissuade smoking, such as on-cigarette health warnings. In addition, she has worked across projects as a research assistant exploring approaches to marketing e-cigarette brands (funded by CRUK) and marketing activities by gambling brands during the COVID-19 pandemic (Funded by ESRC) and projects exploring the smoking ban and use of e-cigarettes in Scottish Prisons (funded by NIHR and CRUK).
Email: Danielle.firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @DanielleM_30