Plain packaging for alcohol ‘off the mark’

by Amy Hopkins

The introduction of plain packaging and graphic warnings for alcohol in Australia would be “off the mark” and tantamount to “scaremongering”, a trade body has said in response to a new study.

Alcohol Beverages Australia (ABA) rebuffed the report's claims that a graphic video (below) portraying a link between alcohol and cancer was the most effective advertisement in prompting drinkers to reduce their consumption. The video, titled Spread, was commissioned by the Western Australia government and shows alcohol being absorbed into the bloodstream, leading to cancerous cell mutations. ABA, however, said advertisement's warning of an increased risk of cancer when consuming alcohol is “not a true reflection” of health risks associated with responsible consumption. “While such advertisements can play a role in raising awareness amongst problem drinkers, they need to be much clearer about the very high levels of drinking that are relevant to significantly increased cancer risks,” said Fergus Taylor, executive director of ABA. “The industry has long advocated for targeted measures to deal with specific areas of problem consumption and misuse, as opposed to broad-based, population-wide measures like ads that use cynical scare tactics to frighten responsible drinkers.” He added: “To be in the risk category claimed in these ads, you have to drink at levels that are extremely high, which is simply not relevant to most people.” Taylor also said the “vast majority” of Australians would “dismiss” such adverts as “scaremongering” since they “do not serve the public health benefit that has been claimed”. He added: “The alcohol beverages industry urges policy makers to carefully consider the established evidence before making any decisions on the subject."