Monday, 5 September 2016

Plain packaging for soft drinks

Ontario Medical Association (2012)

As predicted by everybody apart from the con artists of tobacco control, the campaign to extend plain packaging and graphic warnings to other products marches on. A new study in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity appeared last week...

Effects of plain packaging, warning labels, and taxes on young people’s predicted sugar-sweetened beverage preferences: an experimental study


Consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) is associated with increased risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and dental caries. Our aim was to assess the effects of plain packaging, warning labels, and a 20 % tax on predicted SSB preferences, beliefs and purchase probabilities amongst young people.


A 2 × 3 × 2 between-group experimental study was conducted over a one-week period in August 2014. Intervention scenarios were delivered, and outcome data collected, via an anonymous online survey [the gold standard of scientific research! - CJS]. Participants were 604 New Zealand young people aged 13–24 years who consumed soft drinks regularly. Participants were randomly allocated using a computer-generated algorithm to view one of 12 experimental conditions, specifically images of branded versus plain packaged SSBs, with either no warning, a text warning, or a graphic warning, and with or without a 20 % tax. Participant perceptions of the allocated SSB product and of those who might consume the product were measured using seven-point Likert scales. Purchase probabilities were measured using 11-point Juster scales.


Six hundred and four young people completed the survey (51 % female, mean age 18 (SD 3.4) years). All three intervention scenarios had a significant negative effect on preferences for SSBs (plain packaging: F (6, 587) = 54.4, p < 0.001; warning label: F (6, 588) = 19.8, p < 0.001; 20 % tax: F (6, 587) = 11.3, p < 0.001). Plain packaging and warning labels also had a significant negative impact on reported likelihood of purchasing SSB’s (p = < 0.001). A 20 % tax reduced participants’ purchase probability but the difference was not statistically significant (p = 0.2).


Plain packaging and warning labels significantly reduce young people’s predicted preferences for, and reported probability of purchasing, SSBs.

As usual, tobacco was the test case but once plain packaging was introduced in Australia it didn't take long for the 'public health' racket to start applying it to food and drink. A small body of junk science based on surveys in which people offer their stated preferences to biased researchers has been built up in the last few years (see here and here, for example). They will keep producing these efforts until they can claim to have 'overwhelming evidence' that plain packaging will reduce obesity. Then it will just be a matter of finding a health minister somewhere in the world who is gullible enough to give it the green light.

The authors write:

Of the experimental conditions examined, plain packaging had the most significant negative impact on predicted product preferences, and was associated with less positive perceptions of those who might consume the product. These results align with findings from studies of plain packaging for tobacco products.

What a surprise.

Although graphic warning labels have not yet been proposed for SSBs [oh yes they have; see pic at the top of this post - CJS], this research suggests they would be more effective than text warning labels. Furthermore, warning labels had a greater effect when placed on beverages with plain packaging compared with branded packaging, suggesting that attractive branding and colours on SSBs may reduce effectiveness of warning labels. These results are again consistent with tobacco research.

It's safe to say that all slippery slope propaganda is going to be 'consistent with tobacco research'. That's the point.

It's all so tediously predictable.

No comments: