Ever since plain packaging
for tobacco products was first introduced and made compulsory in numerous countries, many have wondered whether generic packaging rules should be applied to alcoholic beverages as well. While yea-sayers are convinced public health will only benefit from plain packaging rules for alcoholic drinks, things aren’t as clear-cut as they seem.
Can plain packaging change drinking behaviour?
The labels currently used for alcoholic drinks leave a lot to be desired, according to an investigation by Public Health England. Experts agree that, while most UK manufacturers have in fact delivered on a voluntary pledge
to provide labels with clearer unit content, drinking guidelines and pregnancy warnings, the labels are still found to have little to no effect
on drinking behaviour
. Meanwhile, Australian researchers have concluded that smokers find cigarettes in generic packaging to be less satisfying, believing them to be of lower quality. What’s more, smokers who buy plainly packaged tobacco eventually attach more importance to quitting smoking than they did before.
Plain packaging: alcohol vs. tobacco
Still, researchers urge governments, consumers and drinks manufacturers not to jump to conclusions. Alcoholic beverages and cigarettes remain different products, and there are some fundamental differences
between people’s motivations to smoke and their motivations to drink. It thus remains unclear whether the same packaging restrictions would lead to similar results. Further research is deemed necessary.
Alcoholic drinks manufacturers fear the worst
Given how craft drinks
are an enormous part of the alcohol industry, drinks manufacturers are not at all pleased with the thought of having to replace often intricately designed labels
with generic ones. “It will crush the craft side of the industry”, said Jared Brown, founder of distillery Sipsmith in an interview with the Guardian. “It will shift the business back to the industrial producers. […] If something like this comes through, we won’t be able to weather it.”
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