DoH backs alcohol brands in plain packaging proposal

Alcohol brands could be rescued from the possibility of a plain packaging enforcement and marketing bans in the UK, after the Department of Health (DoH) told MPs there was "very limited" evidence to its effectiveness.

Alcohol packaging: plain labelling has been rejected
Alcohol packaging: plain labelling has been rejected

The possibility of enforcing plain packaging was first touted as part of an on-going inquiry into the government's alcohol strategy.

The DoH's written evidence submitted to the Commons Health Select Committee, which is running an inquiry on the Government’s alcohol strategy, said that plain packaging is "not an intervention widely used for alcohol and we are not aware of any research on this".

In May, the Advertising Association submitted its own evidence to the Committee, responding to suggestion of marketing bans on the alcohol industry, which said: "An advertising ban is not the solution to the complex problem of harmful alcohol consumption".

The DoH noted that some countries, such as Norway, had banned alcohol advertising altogether.

The department said: "France has banned TV and cinema advertising of alcohol, with controls on the content of advertising in other media. As we have noted already, evidence on the impact of such restrictions is very limited and it is very hard to show that they are proportionate."

The DoH said the current advertising rules are designed to "protect" young people and vulnerable groups, supported by "extensive scheduling restrictions" while ensuring that alcohol ads "do not reflect or encourage any antisocial or undesirable behaviours associated with alcohol misuse".

The possibility of plain packaging was announced by the Government earlier this year, coinciding with the launch the Responsible Marketing Pact, a set of voluntary standards for all marketing communications throughout the EU from AB InBev, Bacardi, Brown-Forman, Carlsberg, Diageo Heineken, Pernod Ricard and SABMiller.

The pact contains several goals intended to shield children from alcohol marketing.

Follow Loulla-Mae Eleftheriou-Smith on Twitter @loullamae_es

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