A new study revelas: Australia’s current system of alcohol warning labels is failing to effectively convey health messages to the public.
Researchers of Deakin University’s School of Psychology analysed awareness of the voluntary warning labels and examined recognition of the ‘Get the facts’ logo that is supposed to direct alcohol consumers to the alcohol industry-led informational website DrinkWise. The scientists also studied whether alcohol consumers actually visited this website.
The results are clear:
- Recall of the current, voluntary warning labels on Australian alcohol products was non-existent.
- Overall awareness was low.
- Few people reported visiting the DrinkWise website.
One of the authors of the study, Peter Miller, Associate Professor of Psychology, said:
These findings demonstrate that the current approach of industry self-regulation is a straightforward case of regulatory failure
The voluntary messages on alcohol products were put in place in 2011 by DrinkWise – a ‘public relations’ organisation which is funded and governed by the alcohol industry – in response to a recommendation by a government review that all alcohol product labels depict a health warning.
The most recent audit showed that these labels are only depicted on around one third of alcohol products.
Associate Professor Miller comments on the alcohol industry’s failure to live up to their own commitment:
We cannot continue to rely on voluntary industry-led measures where these important messages are being obscurely placed and take up less than five per cent of the product label.
Given that the majority of the Australian public support the introduction of mandatory health warning labels for alcohol products, and the success seen from strong, research-based tobacco labelling, it is time for the government to put in place mandatory, highly visible, black and white warning labels on the front of all alcohol products.
The study included 561 participants aged between 18 to 45 years, who completed an online survey to assess their alcohol consumption patterns, awareness of the ‘Get the facts’ messages, and their use of the DrinkWise website. Participants were also questioned about the series of DrinkWise warning labels.
The results showed:
- No participants could spontaneously recall the ‘Get the facts’ logo.
- Only 16% of participants could recall warning labels on alcohol products when prompted with images
- Only 25% recognised the logo and 13 to 38% recognised the warnings.
- Only 7.3% of participants had visited the website.
The results show that the measures taken by the alcohol industry are not effective in increasing knowledge or changing behaviour and are obviously only a marketing ploy for the alcohol industry. The website run by the alcohol industry creates the impression of corporate social responsibility, but it fails to promote evidence-based interventions to prevent and reduce alcohol harm.
Complete source of the study:
“Do consumers ‘Get the facts’? A survey of alcohol warning label recognition in Australia.” BMC Public Health 2015