RESEARCH from the University of Stirling has revealed just half of 11-19-year-old drinkers remember seeing health messages or warnings on alcohol packaging.

Published in the Journal of Public Health, the research investigated to what extent 11-19-year olds in the UK were aware of product information, health messaging or warnings on alcohol packaging during the previous month.

The team found that, of those who identified themselves as ‘current drinkers’, just half had recalled seeing such information – and that fell to just one third of the entire age group, regardless of their current drinking status.

It is the first study to examine awareness and recall of such messaging in a large and demographically representative sample of young people across the UK.

Experts believe the findings will support the debate around the design, effectiveness, and regulation of alcohol labelling in the UK.

Dr Nathan Critchlow, research fellow in Stirling’s Institute for Social Marketing (ISM), led the study.

He said: “In the UK and internationally, there are frequent calls to increase the visibility, comprehension and effectiveness of labelling on alcohol packaging.

“In particular, critics often point to the statutory steps taken for nutritional labelling on food and drinks, or health warnings and messaging on tobacco products, and ask why alcohol labelling – which is self-regulated by the industry – isn’t as progressive.

“The Scottish Government has also included a commitment in their latest strategy to consider mandatory labelling if the alcohol industry does not improve visibility and clarity by September 2019, while the Republic of Ireland already have plans to introduce similar legislation.

“Our latest research provides a timely and unique insight that will help inform these debates.”

Dr Critchlow carried out the study with ISM colleagues Dr Crawford Moodie, Dr Niamh Fitzgerald, Anne Marie MacKintosh and Daniel Jones, alongside Chris Thomas, Jyotsna Vohra, and Lucie Hooper, of the Cancer Policy Research Centre at Cancer Research UK.

Dr Jyotsna Vohra said: “Beyond the fact that children are drinking underage, it’s worrying that only half can recall seeing important health warnings.

“Alcohol is linked to seven types of cancer in adults and is responsible for over 12,000 cases annually, yet only one in 10 people are aware of this risk.

“All labelling must also clearly note that people should not drink more than 14 units per week. And while not everyone who drinks will go on to develop cancer, there’s no harm in cutting down.”