Jones D, Moodie C, Purves RI, Fitzgerald N & Crockett R (2021) Health information, messaging and warnings on alcohol packaging: a focus group study with young adult drinkers in Scotland. Addiction Research & Theory, 29 (6), pp. 469-478. https://doi.org/10.1080/16066359.2021.1884229
Introduction: Alcohol packaging can communicate alcohol-related health information, messaging and warnings. However, there is a dearth of research exploring awareness of, and engagement with, health information and messaging on alcohol packaging, and response to novel alcohol warnings.
Methods: Eight focus groups were conducted in Glasgow (Scotland) with current drinkers (n = 50), segmented by age (18–24, 25–35), gender (female, male) and social grade (ABC1, C2DE), to explore awareness and use of health information and messaging on existing packaging, and perceptions of novel front-of-package warnings differing in size (small, large), form (text-only, text and image) and message content (general, specific).
Results:Unaided recall of some health information and messaging was high (e.g. units, pregnancy symbols); however, most participants did not attend to or meaningfully engage with these, viewing them as unnoticeable, obscure and ineffective. Participants were skeptical of alcohol companies’ motivations with respect to health messaging on products. They were surprised to see the novel warnings on alcohol products but generally supported their inclusion. Most thought that these warnings could increase awareness of alcohol-related harms, particularly for younger or potential drinkers. Large, combined (text and image) warnings with specific messages on the front of packaging were considered most engaging and potentially effective.
Conclusions: The health-related information and messaging on alcohol packaging in Scotland is failing to inform consumers about the potential risks associated with alcohol use. Prominent warnings on alcohol packaging could help to capture attention, increase awareness of alcohol-related harms, and may support a reduction in consumption and alcohol-related harms.
Alcohol packaging; alcohol warnings; alcohol-related harms; health warnings; alcohol policy; consumer perceptions of alcohol industry
Addiction Research & Theory: Volume 29, Issue 6