Cigarette-style warnings ‘could reduce purchases of sugary drinks’

Cigarette-style warnings ‘could reduce purchases of sugary drinks’

Cigarette-style health warnings on sugary drinks could reduce the number of them being bought for children, a study has revealed.

Published in the journal PLOS Medicine, the report shows how a trial of using pictorial health warnings on sugary drinks influenced parents’ purchasing decisions.

During the trial, conducted in the US, 325 parents of children aged between two and 12 were split into two groups and asked to choose a drink and snack for their child, plus a household item.

One group had cigarette-style health warnings about type 2 diabetes or heart diseases displayed on the drinks, while the other just had barcode labels.

In the group with health warnings on the items, 28 per cent of parents bought sugary drinks for their child, compared to 45 per cent of parents in group with just barcodes.

The parents with the warnings also chose sugary drinks with less calories, with the average of 52 kcal for that group compared to 82 kcal for the other.

Parents reported thinking more about their decision and the impacts of sugary drinks after seeing the warnings.

Children in the US consume more than the recommended levels of sugary drinks, leading to an increased risk of a variety of chronic diseases, including type 1 diabetes and heart disease.

Researchers believe that warnings with pictures on could be a viable option for lowering the number of sugary drinks bought for children and reducing related health outcomes.

Lindsey Smith Taillie, one of the co-authors of the report, said: “Kids in the US consume too many sugary drinks, increasing their risk of a variety of health problems, from dental caries to chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes.

“We know from tobacco control research that warnings that include images are effective for reducing consumption. Our study is one of the first to show that this type of policy works for sugary drinks, too.

“This data provides evidence to support policies to require strong front-of-package warnings as a strategy to reduce children’s intake of sugary drinks.”