Knowing Booze Causes Cancer Inspires People to Cut Down

Most effective ad at motivating people to reduce their drinking shows cancer mutations
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 20, 2017 10:04 AM CDT

If you want to get people to stop boozing it up, don't show them images of glasses of healthy, sparkling water instead of beer—show them an ad that illustrates how too many cocktails can cause cancer to course through their bodies, the Guardian reports. That's the finding of a new study published in the BMJ Open journal that examined English-language alcohol ads to identify which ones proved best at inspiring drinkers to cut down. Researchers tapped a pool of 2,174 Australian adults ages 18 to 64 who drink alcohol at least one or two days a week. A total of 83 ads were shown, and the subjects were instructed to note after viewing each one how motivated they were to reduce their drinking on a scale from one to five, with "one" counting as an unmotivated "Nah, I'm good," and "five" as "Take the key to my liquor cabinet and bury it, please."

The most effective ad: "Spread," a 30-second video created by the Western Australian government a few years ago that shows the cancerous mutations wrought after alcohol gets into one's bloodstream. The dud: that ad pushing water over beer. Cancer Council Victoria CEO Todd Harper tells the Guardian that "Spread" may have made an impact because folks simply don't know alcohol is a Group 1 carcinogen, the most dangerous category. Even though Fergus Taylor, the director of Alcohol Beverages Australia, calls the "Spread" ad "scaremongering," Harper notes "every drink" ups one's chance of getting cancer, including that of the mouth, liver, and bowel. What these findings should do is spur campaigns that maximize the public's awareness of alcohol so they can cut their cancer risk, Harper says, per Mumbrella. (A study says alcohol can be directly tied to seven cancers.)

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