The Chinese government acknowledged the alcohol-cancer link in an article posted by the Ministry of Science and Technology. This has increased the alcohol industry’s fear of alcohol policy improvements. Investors were seen dumping stocks of major alcohol companies – as an immediate reaction to the Chinese government acknowledging that alcohol causes cancer and that the burden is heavy in China.

The Ministry of Science and Technology of China published an article about alcohol’s cancer risk citing the results of a new study.

A study in the Lancet by Rumgay and colleagues recently uncovered the global cancer burden caused by alcohol. According to their findings alcohol caused 4% of all cancer cases worldwide, amounting to 741,000 total cases every.

China had a larger alcohol-related cancer burden than the global average.

282,300 cancer cases in China, or 6% of all cancers in the country, were caused by alcohol.

The Eastern Asian region had one of the largest proportions of men affected by cancer due to alcohol (9%, 275,900 cases) in the world.

Cancer cases caused by alcohol in China
According to a new study published on the Lancet, 282,300 cancer cases in China or 6% of all cancers in the country were caused by alcohol.

Following these findings and the worrying data about alcohol and cancer in China, the Chinese government posted an article online about the link between alcohol and cancer.

Apparently, this event has scared the alcohol industry. Investors were seen dumping stocks as a result. China’s CSI Liquor Index closed down 1.47% on August 5, 2021. Shares in Kweichou Moutai Co Ltd and Wuliangye Yibin Co Ltd – two Chinese alcohol industry giants – were down 1.5% and 3.1% respectively.

Alcohol harm and policy in China

Alcohol use is increasing in China, with alcohol problems, including addiction, also rising.

  • Per capita alcohol consumption increased from 4.1 liters in 2005 to 7.2 liters in 2016.
  • Alcohol dependence in China increased from 0.02% to 0.68% between the 1980s and 1990s.

Even amidst the COVID-19 pandemic China’s alcohol industry have maximized their profits in 2021. According to data released by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, in the first six months of 2021,

  • Major alcohol companies increased their profits by 29.4% year on year. This amounted to 108.42 billion yuan (about 16.73 billion U.S. dollars) in profits.
  • Sales of distilled spirits increased by 11.8%, beer increased by 10.3% and wine by 1.5%

Rising alcohol use is already showing its negative consequences. A study published in the journal Addiction found pervasive alcohol problems, especially among Chinese men.

  • 33% of men were current regular alcohol users.
  • 1 in 4 men who are regular alcohol users also reported one or more indicators of pervasive alcohol problems.
  • 8% of men reported pervasive alcohol problems.
© WHO Global Alcohol Status Report 2018

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), recorded per capita alcohol consumption has been increasing in China from 1961 to 2016. Binge alcohol use is high in the country with over one-third (40.7%) of alcohol users engaging in this especially harmful behavior.

In 2016, alcohol caused:

  • over 83,000 deaths from liver cirrhosis,
  • over 88,500 deaths from road traffic injury, and
  • over 78,000 deaths from cancer, in China, according to the WHO Global Alcohol Status Report 2018, which is based on data from 2016.

Despite the rising alcohol harm in the country, China has weak alcohol policies. There is no national policy, minimum age for alcohol purchase, or regulations for on- and off-premise sale. Marketing is weakly regulated, only for advertising and not for sponsorships or promotions.

Since alcohol use has been climbing in the country since the 1980s, officials are starting to notice national health problems due to alcohol that resemble those in Western countries. With the brand new research exposing the harm caused by alcohol, the government is expected to take action to improve alcohol policies to better protect the health and well-being of the Chinese people.


Reuters: “Investors dump alcohol and e-cigarettes stocks in China after state media criticism

Big News Network: “China’s alcohol-making industry posts robust growth in H1