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Study: Victorians aren't aware alcohol causes cancer

Thursday 29 April, 2010

Call on govt review panel for better alcohol labelling

Research released today shows one in two Victorians don't realise that alcohol causes cancer, prompting the Alcohol Policy Coalition to call for health advisory labels on all alcohol products to better inform consumers.

The Council of Australian Governments is today holding a public meeting in Melbourne to discuss overhauling Australia's food and alcohol labelling laws.

"People need to know what they are drinking and how it can impact their health so that they can make an informed decision about the drinks they purchase and consume," said Craig Sinclair, Director of the Cancer Prevention Centre, Cancer Council Victoria.

The VicHealth survey of 1,500 Victorians showed one in four people don't believe that alcohol is a cause of cancer, while another 25% said they weren't sure.

"It's surprising that there isn't even a requirement for alcohol companies to list ingredients on their products, let alone labels about the risk of disease. There is no reason why alcohol, which is inherently harmful, is subject to less regulation in this regard than a can of soft drink," said Mr Sinclair.

Previously released figures from VicHealth showed that 85% of people support the introduction of labels detailing health information on alcohol products, which are already a requirement in at least 43 countries.

"We call on the Council of Australian Governments through the labelling review to make health information and warning labels mandatory rather than through a voluntary system implemented by the alcohol industry.

"The tobacco labelling success has proven that health labels play a big part in changing the behaviour of consumers. Similarly health labels will assist people to understand the potential health impact when they buy alcohol and when they drink it," said Mr Sinclair.

Alcohol is second only to tobacco as the most harmful drug in Australia. The World Health Organisation has classed alcohol as a Group 1 carcinogen, which is the highest classification. This means that alcohol is a cause of cancer and puts alcohol in the same class as tobacco. Drinking alcohol increases the risk of:

The risk of cancer is present for all types of alcohol including beer, wine and spirits.

In 2005, 3,000 Australians were diagnosed with an alcohol-related cancer and 1,376 died from cancers caused by alcohol.