Many countries use health warnings in an attempt to regulate alcohol consumption. However, there is a lack of conclusive evidence in the research on alcohol warnings to support decision-making on effective health policies.
A study explored the effectiveness of two mandatory warnings introduced in France in 1991 and 2007: the first (Alcohol abuse is harmful) is displayed on alcohol advertisements; the second (a pictogram) on bottles. Given that advertising content regulations have been implemented in some countries to reduce the attractiveness of alcohol marketing (e.g. the Evin law in France), this research also aimed to explore whether such regulations can improve the effectiveness of warnings.
In-depth interviews were conducted with 26 French people aged 15-29 years. The effectiveness of health warnings was assessed in terms of recall, noticeability, credibility, comprehension, responsiveness, and ability to encourage moderate drinking and abstinence during pregnancy. Participants were shown alcohol advertisements and bottles that either followed or challenged content regulations.
While both warnings suffered from a lack of visibility and noticeability due to their size, location, and outdatedness and because of competition from marketing design elements, the warning on the advertisement that followed content regulations was most visible. Both warnings were considered to be informationally vague, lacking in credibility and ineffective in terms of making participants feel concerned and influencing consumption habits.
The study concludes that the current French warnings are ineffective and require modification. Improvements are suggested regarding the design and content of warnings to help increase their effectiveness.
Source: The effectiveness of current French health warnings displayed on alcohol advertisements and alcoholic beverages. Dossou G, Gallopel-Morvan K, Diouf JF. Eur J Public Health. 2017 Feb 17. doi: 10.1093/eurpub/ ckx012.