How would plain alcohol labels and warnings affect the Lincolnshire drinks trade?

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Government advisory body Public Health England has suggested graphic health warnings and plain labelling on alcohol bottles could be introduced to raise awareness of drinking risks. But how would the move affect traders in Lincolnshire?

The Public Health report, which was published in December, believes ‘warning labels should be designed and implemented’, akin to the packaging currently enforced on cigarette packets.

In January, public health experts called for a ban on alcohol advertising in the UK in light of research claiming marketing practices encouraged young people to drink.

While global brands may be watching the progression of discussions wearily, independent retailers who often rely on the allure of unique labelling and gift options may have bigger concerns.

In light of this, Lincolnshire Business asked three specialist alcohol shops in Lincoln city centre for their opinion on the potential change.

The Wig and Mitre

The Wig and Mitre’s Ian Hingley believes the possible change could lose trade.

Manager Ian Hingley, said: “We would probably lose trade.

“We are mainly a wine shop, and people shop with their eyes and a lot of it is labelling, why do wines have fancy labels?

“People won’t read them as they’re on the back label and I don’t think they’d really read them on the front label either.

“When people go to a restaurant they ask for a glass of wine, they don’t see the bottle or ask about the percentage, they just want the wine.”

Steep Hill Wines

Steep Hill Wines’ Steve Burnett supports the idea

Steep Hill Wines manager Steve Burnett was cautious about predicting what affect a packaging change would have on the business.

He said: “It might affect us, it’s difficult to say as we’ve never had such issues before, but we would expect some changes.”

He added that he would support the emphasis on raising the profile on drinking risks.

“It would help, there’s always been a difference between drinking too much and drinking in moderation.

“It’s the same with tobacco, it obviously has an effect but it’s difficult to say until it’s enforced.

“We would support it, like drinking in moderation and Drink Aware – we embrace that but it wouldn’t negatively effect what we’re doing too much. It’s a balancing act.”

The Whiskey Shop

The Whiskey Shop – Image: Guy Owen

The owner of the Whiskey Shop, who did not wish to be named, said the suggested new labelling measures would be difficult to enforce, pointing out that many of the specialised brands stocked there have been imported from across the globe.

“I don’t see it being much of a problem with it going on a bottle of whiskey.

“I think you may find it a little difficult to get it on the foreign whiskeys because that would have to be a world-wide legislation and we carry whiskey from all over the world.

“The people that we sell out alcohol to are reasonably sensible people and they don’t abuse alcohol as they’re more mature as it’s more expensive here than other off-licences.

“I don’t see much point in the idea, I don’t think it would make much of a difference one way or the other.”