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Health professionals

Cancer Council is calling on the Federal Government to step away from industry codes and set higher standards for alcohol marketing, as new research shows zero alcohol product marketing is falling through the cracks of already-weak industry codes.

New research published in Drug and Alcohol Review has found inconsistencies in whether and how liquor laws and codes apply to marketing for zero alcohol products.

Julia Stafford, Chair of Cancer Council’s National Alcohol Working Group, warns that many zero alcohol products resemble alcohol products in all ways except for their alcohol content, including sharing a known alcohol brand identity. This brand sharing enables alcohol brands to be marketed in places and times where alcoholic products are not.

“The current state and territory liquor laws and the industry-led Alcohol Beverages Advertising Code (ABAC) Scheme do not adequately apply to the availability or marketing of zero alcohol products,” Ms Stafford said.

“Alcohol marketing strategies, including for zero alcohol products, should be scrutinized, particularly where children and young people are exposed. Without higher standards from our governments, children and young people are at risk of harm from alcohol.”

These marketing strategies typically position zero alcohol products as alternatives to sugary or sports drinks, rather than substitutes for alcohol products.

“There are no standards for how zero alcohol products simulate alcohol products, and this poses a public health risk,” Ms Stafford said.

“As liquor laws largely do not apply to zero alcohol products, there are no restrictions on where, how and to whom zero alcohol products can be sold. This means that under 18s are exposed to zero alcohol products in highly visible places such as supermarkets and convenience stores.

“Cancer Council is calling on the Australian Government to set higher standards for alcohol marketing and pay close attention to how zero alcohol products provide additional marketing opportunities for alcohol companies. We have always been a strong advocate in calling for government-led regulation of alcohol marketing in Australia that protects our kids and communities.”

There is strong evidence that any amount of any type of alcohol increases the risk of seven types of cancer. Alcohol use causes 3500 cases of cancer in Australia each year.