Graphic campaign drives down intentions to consume sugary drinks

Wednesday 30 October, 2019

Victorians are brushing up on their sugary drinks knowledge and looking to cut back on sugary drinks, thanks to Cancer Council Victoria’s graphic ’13 types of cancer’ public awareness campaign.

The hard-hitting campaign, which launched last October, exposed the link between obesity and 13 types of cancer with a simple message to avoid sugary drinks as a key contributor to weight gain. 

The evaluation, conducted by the Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer at Cancer Council Victoria, found the confronting advertisement was effective in exposing added sugar in a variety of drinks, beyond soft drinks.

The campaign was evaluated by comparing attitudes and behaviours regarding sugary drinks of 602 people aged 25-59 in Victoria where the campaign aired with 618 in other Australian states that did not show the campaign, with the exception of Western Australia.

Over half of those surveyed indicated they intended to reduce their consumption of energy drinks, fruit drinks and flavoured milks after seeing the campaign.

The impact was particularly noticeable among parents and frequent consumers of sugary drinks.

Cancer Council Victoria’s lead researcher of the evaluation, Dr Belinda Morley, said the results demonstrated the importance of educating people about the dangers of hidden sugar in other types of sugary drinks. 

“Our evaluation found the campaign achieved what it set out to do which was to increase peoples’ awareness of the link between obesity and cancer risk and encourage them to avoid sugary drinks,” said Dr Morley.  

“This was most starkly demonstrated when we saw an increase in the number of Victorians who reported their intention to reduce their consumption of sugary drinks such as energy drinks, fruit drinks and flavoured milk. This was not observed in the states where the campaign wasn’t shown.”

Cancer Council Victoria’s Chief Executive Officer, Todd Harper, said investment in healthy lifestyle mass media campaigns like Cancer Council Victoria’s ’13 types of cancer’ should form an important part of an obesity prevention strategy.

“This campaign shows that if we empower people with information, they are able to work towards making healthier decisions for themselves,” Mr Harper said.

“With around 3,900 cancers in Australia each year linked to being above a healthy weight, it’s vital that we work hard to help people understand the link and encourage them to take steps to reduce their risk [1] .”

The advertisement features Melbourne surgeon Dr Ahmad Aly exposing in graphic detail what sugary drinks could be doing to your health, as his laparoscopic camera delves inside a patient’s body to expose the harmful toxic fat around internal organs. 

Today’s evaluation supports LiveLighter’s survey of over 2,000 Australians that demonstrated while the majority of people (93%) identified soft drink as a sugary drink, a third failed to identify flavoured milks as a sugary drink and 27% failed to identify fruit drinks as sugary drinks.

Given the success of these results, Cancer Council Victoria is currently running the campaign on TV and radio and across social media channels as well as outdoors across the state.

Top tips to avoid sugary drinks

  • Avoid the soft drink aisle at the supermarket and beware of the specials at the checkout and service stations.
  • If you're eating out, don't go with the default soft drink – see what other options there are, or just ask for water.
  • Carry a water bottle, so you don't have to buy a drink if you're thirsty.
  • Herbal teas, sparkling water, home-made smoothies or fruit infused water are simple alternatives that still taste great.
  • For inspiration and recipe ideas visit cancervic.org.au/healthyweight
Sugary drinks in a fridge


[1] Whiteman, D.C., Webb, P.M., Green, A.C., Neale, R.E., Fritschi, L., Bain, C.J., … & Pandeya, N., 2015, ‘Cancers in Australia in 2010 attributable to modifiable factors: summary and conclusions’, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, vol. 39, no. 5, pp. 477–484.