John Holmes

John is the Director of the Sheffield Alcohol Research Group. After completing degrees in Social Policy at the University of York, he joined the School of Health and Related Research at the University of Sheffield where he contributes epidemiological evidence and policy analyses to public health debates around alcohol. He provided key evidence that informed the implementation of minimum unit pricing (MUP) in several countries and the development of new low risk drinking guidelines in the UK and Australia. He now leads projects examining the decline in youth drinking and the public health impact of no- and low-alcohol drinks.

The no/lo drinks market: how to maximise the public health benefit and minimise the potential for harm

The emergence of a largescale no- and low-alcohol (no/lo) drinks market reflects technological improvements, shifting consumer demand, and the commercial interests of alcohol producers. These products have the potential for a transformative impact on public health but also carry significant risks.  If consumed in place of standard alcoholic drinks by higher risk groups, their impact on levels of alcohol consumption in the UK could be similar to those ascribed to policies such as minimum unit pricing.  There could also be additional benefits if people substitute no/lo drinks for standard alcoholic drinks in high-risk contexts, such as when driving or pregnant.  Harmful consequences may occur however if no/lo drinks normalise alcohol use in new contexts, introduce young people to alcohol tastes, brands and products early, trigger cravings in people recovering from dependence, facilitate alibi marketing of standard alcoholic drinks or enable industry actors to present themselves as effective contributors to reducing alcohol-related harm and thereby stymie attempts to introduce wider alcohol control measures. Public health actors should therefore scrutinise carefully the development of the no/lo market carefully and, where appropriate, take action to maximise the public health benefit of these products and minimise the potential for harm.