Study: Big Alcohol Pink-Washing Exposed

A new study in the October issue of Addiction Journal documents alcohol products promoted with pink ribbons, partnerships with breast cancer charities, and general terms such as “breast cancer research” or “cure.”

Hundreds of brands promote products with breast cancer awareness ribbons. But pink washing is the term for all the cases when companies that manufacture and market carcinogenic products engage in “cancer awareness and prevention campaigns”.

Cynically, pinkwashed alcohol brands contribute to cancer risk in the name of research, treatment, and/or prevention. Pink washed alcohol products extend the potential to increase sales of a carcinogen by linking an iconic charitable cause and entire populations of women, including young women who may already consume alcohol at higher levels.

Sarah Mart, research director at Alcohol Justice and co-author of the study, explaines:

Pinkwashed alcohol products and promotions under the breast cancer awareness credo devalue and undermine the vital work of cancer charities.

As a public health standard, breast cancer awareness should be clearly separate from alcohol marketing.

The evidence is clear: moderate and even low alcohol use is a leading risk factor for breast cancer, and 8% of breast cancer cases globally are attributable to alcohol.

Norman Giesbrecht, study coauthor and senior scientist and director at the Centre for Addiction & Mental Health in Toronto, comments:

Alcohol is a major contributing cause of a wide range of social problems, types of trauma and chronic disease, including several types of cancer.

An alliance between a breast cancer prevention charity and an alcohol producer confounds efforts to implement effective prevention strategies and may increase risky drinking among the most vulnerable.

Ms. Mart will present the study’s findings and recommendations in October at the Global Alcohol Policy Conference in Edinburgh, Scotland; and in November at the American Public Health Association Annual Meeting in Chicago, Illinois.

Bruce Lee Livingston, Alcohol Justice Executive Director/CEO exposes the interests of the alcohol industry:

Big Alcohol’s pinkwashing is a deceptive, egregious, and exploitive cause-marketing practice that does more harm than good.

Cancer charities need to reconsider any marketing partnerships and sponsorship relationships with alcohol brands. Local, state, and federal regulators must end this charade, in the honor of those who have fallen victim to alcohol-related disease.

Study citation:

Addiction Journal, Vested Interests Series: Red flags on pinkwashed drinks: contradictions and dangers in marketing alcohol to prevent cancer, Sarah Mart, Norman Giesbrecht, Article first published online: 9 SEP 2015, DOI: 10.1111/add.13035

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