Alcohol industry complaints that a television advertisement linking drinking with an increased risk of cancer was misleading have been rejected by the Advertising Standards Authority. (ASA) The ASA came to this conclusion after being presented with scientific evidence on the links between alcohol consumption and the risk of cancer by Balance, a North Eastern England NGO who had produced a TV advert showing a tumour growing in a glass of beer.

The British Beer and Pub Association and Campaign for Real Ale were among seven groups that had filed their complaint with the ASA, arguing that the ad breached the UK’s code on broadcast advertising. According to this complaint the advert was misleading and irresponsible.

Upon hearing the verdict, Colin Shevills, director of Balance, said: “We are delighted at the ASA’s decision – this is a real victory for the health community. (…) Sections of the alcohol industry have tried to prevent us providing health messages to the public which is highly irresponsibly. (…) It also shows an industry which is putting profits before health and wellbeing – similar tactics to those that were employed by the tobacco industry.”
Shevills went on to explain that: “The aim of this advertising campaign was to make people aware of the link between alcohol and seven types of cancer, then directing viewers to further information online so they could make their own, informed, decision about how much they drink.”

“Unlike tobacco, very few people associate alcohol with cancer and we need these perceptions to change. (…) In some of our most recent studies only 21% of people in the North East stated that alcohol greatly increases the risk of cancer – with 18% believing that alcohol doesn’t increase the risk at all.”

The advert in question showed a man in his kitchen preparing a meal. After taking a bottle of beer from the fridge and starting to drink it, a small tumour was seen in the bottom of the glass. It grew with every sip he took, before sliding down the glass towards his mouth.

In its response to the complaint, Balance pointed out the scientific research on the links between alcohol and cancer and also highlighted that the organisation had worked closely with medical experts during the development of the advertising campaign to ensure the messaging was accurate.

The Journal quotes Dr Tony Branson, a consultant clinical oncologist at Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals and medical director of the North of England Cancer Network, saying: “Awareness of the carcinogenic properties of alcohol is not widespread and the film, although strong, gives a clear message in this regard so that individuals can make more informed choices about their alcohol intake.”

Source: 04/27/14 04/23/14

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