Warnings on alcohol containers and advertisements: international experience and evidence on effects

Drug Alcohol Rev. 2009 Jul;28(4):426-35. doi: 10.1111/j.1465-3362.2009.00055.x.


Issues: In light of possible introduction of alcohol warning labels in Australia and New Zealand, this paper discusses the international experience with and evidence of effects of alcohol warning labels.

Approach: The report describes international experience with providing information and warnings concerning the promotion or sale of alcoholic beverages, and considers the evidence on the effects of such information and warnings. The experience with and evaluations of the effects of tobacco warning labels are also considered.

Key findings: The most methodologically sound evaluations of alcohol warning labels are based on the US experience. Although these evaluations find little evidence that the introduction of the warning label in the USA had an impact on drinking behaviour, there is evidence that they led to an increase in awareness of the message they contained. In contrast, evaluations of tobacco warning labels find clear evidence of effects on behaviour.

Implications: There is a need and opportunity for a rigorous evaluation of the impacts of introducing alcohol warning labels to add to the published work on their effectiveness. The experience with tobacco labels might guide the way for more effective alcohol warning labels.

Conclusion: Alcohol warning labels are an increasingly popular alcohol policy initiative. It is clear that warning labels can be ineffective, but the tobacco experience suggests that effective warning labels are possible. Any introduction of alcohol warning labels should be evaluated in terms of effects on attitudes and behaviour.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Advertising / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Alcohol Drinking / adverse effects
  • Alcohol Drinking / prevention & control
  • Alcoholic Beverages / adverse effects*
  • Australia
  • Drug Labeling / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Health Policy / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Humans
  • New Zealand
  • Product Labeling / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Smoking / adverse effects
  • Smoking Prevention
  • Tobacco / adverse effects*
  • United States