Impact of lower strength alcohol labeling on consumption: A randomized controlled trial.

23 Apr 2018

OBJECTIVE: Labels indicating low/light versions of tobacco and foods are perceived as less harmful, which may encourage people to consume more. There is an absence of evidence concerning the impact on consumption of labeling alcohol products as lower in strength. The current study tests the hypothesis that labeling wine and beer as lower in alcohol increases their consumption. METHOD: Weekly wine and beer drinkers (n = 264) sampled from a representative panel of the general population of England were randomized to one of three groups to taste test drinks in a bar-laboratory varying only in the label displayed; Group 1: verbal descriptor Super Low combined with 4% alcohol by volume (ABV) for wine/1% ABV for beer; Group 2: verbal descriptor Low combined with 8% ABV for wine/3% ABV for beer; Group 3: no verbal descriptors of strength (Regular). Primary outcome was total volume (ml) of drink consumed. RESULTS: The results supported the study hypothesis: the total amount of drink consumed increased as the label on the drink denoted successively lower alcohol strength, BLin = .71, p = .015, 95% CI [0.13, 1.30]. Group contrasts showed significant differences between those offered drinks labeled as Super Low (M = 213.77) compared with Regular (M = 176.85), B = 1.43, p = .019, 95% CI [0.24, 2.61]. There was no significant difference in amount consumed between those offered drinks labeled as Low compared with Regular. CONCLUSIONS: These results suggest that labeling drinks as lower in strength increases the amount consumed. Further studies are warranted to test for replication in non-laboratory settings and to estimate whether any effects are at a level with the potential to harm health. TRIAL REGISTRATION: ISRCTN15530806. (PsycINFO Database Record