A short report from the Centre for Public Health, Liverpool John Moores University, UK summarises the evidence as to whether the promotion of lower alcohol products can help reduce alcohol consumption. The report follows increased interest in the UK following initiatives to reduce the alcoholic content of many drinks as part of the Government’s Responsibility Deal.
The report states that /Lower alcohol products have been commercially available for many years, and in recent years, producers have sought to extend their ranges due to increasing consumer demand for ‘healthier’ products. Lowering the alcohol content of drinks offers health benefits for drinkers and at a population level, policies that promote the production and consumption of lower alcohol products have the potential to contribute to reductions in alcohol-related harms.
The report raises the following concerns:
The introduction of lower alcohol products may be primarily additive and increase the number of situations in which alcohol Is consumed (for example, low strength beers have been marketed as “the ideal lunchtime pint”).
Persuading consumers to switch to lower alcohol products is not straightforward, and evidence for a substitution effect following their introduction to the market is lacking.
In the UK, legislation was introduced last year to provide a new duty on beer to encourage the production and consumption of Low strength beers. However, substitution is more likely to take place if the availability of high strength alcoholic beverages is restricted alongside increases in the availability of lower alcohol alternatives.
There has been a steady decline in beer consumption in the UK with parallel increases in wine and cider consumption and encouraging production and consumption of lower alcohol products in a single product category is unlikely to maximize effects on population level harms.