This project examines whether making non-alcoholic or low-alcohol drinks more common and popular in the UK can improve people’s health. Non-alcoholic or low alcohol drinks are beers, ciders, wines, spirits that contain little or no alcohol.

We call them no/lo drinks.

No/lo drinks are increasingly popular, but we do not know if they improve public health. Their impact on health depends on several factors including which people drink them, whether they replace or add to the alcohol people usually drink, and whether they cause any wider benefits or harms. For example, adverts for no/lo drinks might also promote normal alcoholic drinks or encourage young people to start drinking earlier.

Many organisations are trying different ways to make no/lo drinks more common in shops and bars and more popular with the public. Alcohol companies are making and promoting new drinks, the government does not tax no/low drinks and some public health charities encourage people to try no/lo drinks if they want to cut down on alcohol. These actions interact with each other in complex ways to affect who drinks no/lo products and their impact on health. We aim to describe these actions, study their health impact and explore what further actions might ensure no/lo drinks improve public health.

The project is split into four Work Packages (WP). 


WP1 will describe what alcohol companies, UK governments and other organisations do to make no/lo drinks more popular and how this changes over time. It will use a wide range of data, including sales figures, company documents, examples of adverts and interviews with key people. It will also examine how no/lo products fit in with the strategies of alcohol businesses, including their efforts to influence alcohol policy.

WP2 will assess whether ongoing efforts to promote no/lo drinks make people buy less alcohol. It will use market research data and a survey. These will tell us which groups of people buy no/lo drinks, whether this affects how many normal alcoholic drinks they buy, what prices they pay and whether this has changed over time.

WP3 aims to understand how no/lo drinks might change drinking and lead to wider benefits and harms. It will use focus groups to explore how no/lo drinks might affect young people and their parents, pregnant women, people trying to reduce their drinking and people with serious alcohol problems. It will also use a survey to investigate whether no/lo drinks help people cut down on alcohol and how people’s beliefs about no/lo drinks influence whether they drink them.

WP4 will examine whether making no/lo drinks more common and popular improves people’s health and reduces inequalities in health across the population. It will use a computer model that estimates how many people die or are admitted to hospital due to alcohol each year. This model will also test how different ways of promoting no/lo policies affect people’s health.

Our team has worked together over ten years on research projects examining alcohol consumption and health. Civil servants, public health charities and members of the public helped us to design this project. During the project, the public will also help to design and test our research materials, and interpret and share our results. This includes people with experience of alcohol problems.
We will share our findings with the media, health charities, governments, other public bodies and international experts.

This study is funded by the NIHR Public Health Research programme (NIHR135310). The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NIHR or the Department of Health and Social Care.