Drinks makers are breathing a sigh of relief after the Government ruled out forcing alcohol into plain packaging.
The idea was mooted as part of an on-going inquiry by MPs into the government’s alcohol strategy.
But the Department of Health, in its official response to the health committee probe, said there was “very limited” evidence to show that hard-line restrictions, as imposed in countries such as Norway, were either effective or proportionate.
“Some countries, such as Norway, have banned alcohol advertising altogether,” says the DoH evidence.
“France has banned TV and cinema advertising of alcohol, with controls on the content of advertising in other media. Evidence on the impact of such restrictions is very limited and it is very hard to show that they are proportionate.
“Where there has been evidence of likely harm sufficient to justify action, UK regulators have acted robustly.”
The DoH praised the existing role of Ofcom and the Advertising Standards Authority in policing alcohol marketing.
“Plain packaging is not an intervention widely used for alcohol and we are not aware of any research on this,” it wrote.
“We will continue to monitor the effectiveness of the UK’s advertising and marketing regulatory regimes to ensure the rules implemented by the regulators continue to be based on best evidence and sufficient to protect the public – children and young people in particular.”
In its evidence to the inquiry, The Portman Group said banning marketing “risks commoditising alcohol to the point that it can only be marketed primarily on price or abv strength rather than brand position”.
It said the government’s strategy of working with the industry in responsibility measures such as voluntary labelling and innovating lower-alcohol drinks were far more effective.
Meanwhile, opponents of plain packaging of tobacco today launched a campaign video designed to highlight the influence of unelected civil servants in Whitehall.
Coinciding with the government White Paper on civil service reform, the video was produced by the Hands Off Our Packs campaign team.
‘Plain Packaging, No Minister!’ features a conversation between a fictional health minister and his chief civil servant about the desirability of plain packaging. It includes a spoof “partly political broadcast” featuring the minister, the Rt Hon Peter Perfect MP.