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Alcohol warning labels gain momentum

Posted: 25 August 2014

Curtin University researchers have found the development of cancer warning labels for alcoholic drinks would be accepted by the Australian community and therefore recommend their application.

Professor Simone Pettigrew from Curtin’s School of Psychology and Speech Pathology, said there is growing evidence that alcohol contributes to the risk of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, liver disease, foetal abnormalities, impaired memory skills, mental health problems and accidental injury.

“Many people are not aware of the alcohol-cancer link so we developed a series of cancer warning statements for alcohol and tested them for their believability, ability to convince, and perceived relevance across a national sample of more than 2,000 drinkers,” Professor Pettigrew said.

“Encouragingly, even heavy drinkers reportedly found the messages to be believable and were more likely than lighter drinkers to consider the messages personally relevant.”

The statement ‘alcohol increases your risk of bowel cancer’ was most effective in getting people to consider their drinking habits.

“Following the success of warning labels on tobacco products, we are encouraged by the increased support for similar warnings to be placed on alcoholic drinks.” Professor Pettigrew said.

Alcohol harm costs Australia $30 billion annually and despite the demonstrated links between alcohol consumption and ill health, alcohol continues to be heavily advertised.

As warning labels on alcoholic beverages are now mandatory in a growing number of countries, it is hoped this research will help guide government policy on mandatory warnings.

The research was done in collaboration with the Cancer Council WA and The University of Western Australia. Results were published in BMC Public Health and can be accessed at biomedcentral.com.