Fizzy drinks are starting to find themselves on the wrong end of the health spectrum argument. Research from the University of Auckland has found that if we want to reduce young peoples preferences and intakes of sugary drinks we need to start treating fizzy drinks the same way we do cigarettes.
“Plain packaging had the most significant negative impact on young people’s product preferences,” says Professor Ni Mhurchu, lead researcher at the University’s National Institute for Health Innovation. “It was also associated with less positive perceptions of those who might consume the product.”
This isn’t a far out idea either. In fact San Francisco is currently instituting a plain text warning on soda bottles warning of the health risks. Big soda manufacturers are fighting (rather unsuccessfully) that this is an undue burden and infringing free speech rights.
Ads and billboards that advertise fizzy drinks will have to come with the message: “WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay. This is a message from the City and County of San Francisco.”
However researches at the University of Auckland believe this won’t be enough, and if legislators wanted to make a real change they’d enforce graphic warning decays. Just imagine big rotten teeth all over your coke can.
“We found that warning labels had a greater effect when placed on beverages with plain packaging compared with branded packaging,” she says. “This suggests that attractive branding and colours on sugary drinks may reduce the effectiveness of warning labels.
“Brand image and social recognition have a powerful influence on adolescents’ preferences and decision making,” says Professor Ni Mhurchu. “Plain packaging and warning labels could therefore be effective ways to reduce young people’s intake of sugary drinks and prevent childhood obesity.”