Government takes hard line on alcohol warnings

The Government is expected to force the alcohol industry to use health warnings on packaging after it resisted attempts to introduce a voluntary code. The move marks a U-turn by the Department of Health (DoH), which previously favoured self-regulation.

The DoH announced earlier this year that it was launching a voluntary code that asked companies to put labels on packaging warning about the dangers of drinking when pregnant (MW May 24).

But it is understood that this plan has been thrown into disarray following resistance from the likes of Diageo and Carlsberg. Both companies are thought to oppose the plans to increase labelling following controversy over the units of alcohol that can be consumed by pregnant women.

Last month, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) put out guidance stating: “There is no consistent evidence of adverse effects from low-to-moderate alcohol during pregnancy (less than one drink or 1.5 units per day).” This guidance differs from Government advice, which recommends a maximum of one to two units once or twice a week for pregnant women.

Scottish & Newcastle and Coors are planning to go ahead with their own levelling system and will introduce warning labels on all their brands early next year.

The brewers will use an image of a “crossed out” pregnant woman, rather than the Government’s recommended warning that states: “Drinking alcoholic beverages during pregnancy, even in small quantities, can have serious consequences for the health of the baby”.

A Diageo spokeswoman says: “We are fully involved in discussions with the DoH but we believe that labelling will only be effective if it is part of a coherent package of consistent communications for consumers around the responsible consumption of alcohol.”

Meanwhile, lobby group Alcohol Concern issued a report this weekend showing a spike in alcohol ads between 4pm and 6pm, which potentially target children.

Latest from Marketing Week


Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and opinion that will help you do your job better.

Register and receive the best content from the only UK title 100% dedicated to serving marketers' needs.

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work. The more we know about our visitors, the better and more relevant content we can provide for them. And, yes, knowing our audience better helps us find commercial partners too. Don't worry, we won't share your information with other parties, unless you give us permission to do so.

Register now


Our award winning editorial team (PPA Digital Brand of the Year) ask the big questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.


From the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to the need for greater effectiveness, from the challenge of measurement to building a marketing team fit for the future, we are your guide.


Information, inspiration and advice from the marketing world and beyond that will help you develop as a marketer and as a leader.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3703 or email

If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here