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Health professionals

Public health organisations work tirelessly to create safe, healthy spaces for communities to live, learn, work, and play in. However, our efforts only go so far when alcohol companies relentlessly target Australians with ads encouraging them to drink. The onslaught of alcohol marketing does not go unnoticed; opinion surveys regularly tell us that people in the community are highly concerned about alcohol marketing and strongly support strengthened controls. However, for our team, it has been particularly powerful hearing directly from community members themselves about the types of alcohol ads that concern them.

Over the past month, several WA community members have contacted Cancer Council WA to voice their concerns about alcohol promotions; here are three recent examples.

Below a newspaper article about a winter wonderland ball for young people

Below a sea of smiling faces of 12 to 16-year-olds photographed at a winter wonderland ball is a large ad for an alcohol retailer in a local newspaper. These children would no doubt have been very excited to see themselves pictured in the newspaper – after all, this does not happen every day – only to be met with an alcohol ad for a retailer known for its ‘irreverent’ marketing.

We were contacted by a community member who was disappointed that their local newspaper had chosen to place an alcohol ad below an article about a fantastic celebration of young people.

Next to children’s play equipment in a shopping centre

Seen in a regional town’s shopping centre, a concerned community member immediately knew this image did not sit well with them and took a picture to send to us. A merry-go-round, a car ride, and a toy vending machine are a welcome moment of calmness for caregivers while their child is entertained. But throw in an alcohol ad among the mix? The community member was concerned that it was “really inappropriate”.

At a teen football game

Prominent logos of a large beer brand were plastered across marquees, windbreak panels, and beanbags at a footy game competition open to players aged 19 years and younger. In addition to the players being young, the game attracted many families with children.

We received this ad from a community member who had already sent a complaint to the alcohol industry’s own voluntary code and wanted to share the determination with us. The community member was not surprised that the voluntary code had dismissed the complaint. In fact, they told us that they expected such an outcome, having made several complaints about alcohol ads over the years that have all been dismissed for different reasons. The community member said that they are sure Cancer Council WA shares their views about the unsuitability of the current system. We absolutely do.

Alcohol marketing is a cause of alcohol use among young people 

Research shows that the more children and young people are exposed to alcohol ads, the more likely they are to start using alcohol products at a younger age, and to drink more if they are already using alcohol. In fact, evidence has developed to the extent that we now know that alcohol advertising is a cause of drinking among young people. Sadly, alcohol is a cause of cancer in at least seven sites of the body and the number of Western Australians who are diagnosed with alcohol-caused cancers each year is alarmingly high.

“How can they get away with this?” 

The three examples above highlight the breadth of community concern when it comes to alcohol marketing. No area of community life is safe from alcohol marketing. From alcohol sponsorship of sport, to out-of-home ads that can’t be switched off or avoided, to newspaper ads, communities are clearly alarmed by the abundance of alcohol ads.

We sometimes get asked, “How can they get away with this?”. The answer provides no comfort. This is the kind of harmful advertising that happens when governments allow alcohol companies to set their own rules.

Governments must do more to protect the community from alcohol marketing

Cancer Council WA has been encouraging community members to write to us with examples of alcohol ads that concern them. We then aim to support community members to take action. Whether that’s via a letter to the editor, supporting them with a complaint, or drawing public attention to their concerns.

All levels of government can take action to shield communities from harmful marketing. Until there is reform that puts health before profits, our team will continue to find innovative and engaging ways to draw attention to community concerns about alcohol marketing, and encourage governments to free our communities from manipulative and unacceptable alcohol marketing.

We also hope to bring more community voices to discussions about alcohol advertising. If you come across examples of alcohol ads that concern you, reach out to us at

**A note on pictures. We do not normally like to use pictures of alcohol ads in our work in an effort to limit alcohol marketing people are exposed to; however a picture tells a thousand words, and in these instances the images are much more powerful than any words we put down on paper.