Lower strength wine and beer could lead to people consuming more alcohol.
A Cambridge University study found that some supermarkets were promoting them as an alternative to soft drinks, rather than as an alternative to regular strength alcoholic drinks.
The report, published in the BMC Public Health journal found that lower strength wines and beers sold in the UK by Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons were not being actively marketed as alternatives to regular strength products “and thus may not be promoting healthier drinking habits in consumers”.
The study looked at 134 web pages advertising lower strength beers and wines. None contained messages about drinking less, or harm associated with alcohol consumption.
Instead, messages describe them as “lunchtime treats” or “perfect for all occasions”, with lower strength beer described as suitable for drinking on additional occasions such as sports events “to refresh thirsty sportsmen and women”.
Report author Dr Milica Vasiljevic said: “Increased availability of lower strength alcohol products has the potential to reduce alcohol consumption if consumers select these products instead of ones with higher alcohol content.
“If not, they may simply increase the number of occasions on which people drink alcohol.
“Our findings suggest that products containing less alcohol than regular strength wines and beers may be being marketed to replace soft drinks rather than products with higher alcohol content.
“Marketing lower strength alcohol wine and beer as being healthier than regular strength products and suitable for all occasions may paradoxically encourage greater alcohol consumption.”