Background: A growing evidence base relating to the alcohol-cancer link provides a new means of informing drinkers of alcohol-related harms in ways they are likely to find meaningful and motivating.
Aim: This presentation will outline an extensive 3-phase study that developed and tested a range of cancer warning statements that can be included on alcoholic beverages to encourage drinkers to reduce their alcohol consumption.
Methods: The study generated both qualitative and quantitative data and involved more than 4,000 drinkers from across Australia. The criteria for inclusion were a minimum age of 18 years and a minimum alcohol intake of 2-3 standard drinks per month. Attitudinal and behavioural intentions data were collected to assess the effects of a series of warning statements that varied according to several message characteristics. The first characteristic was the way cancer was mentioned: some of the proposed warning statements referenced cancer in general and others nominated specific cancer sites. The second characteristic was message frame, with some messages using positive framing and others adopting a negative frame. The third characteristic was the way causality was inferred: some messages featured the wording “increases risk of cancer” while others used the wording “can cause cancer”.
Results: Participants found the cancer warning statements to be believable, convincing, and personally relevant. Drinking intentions improved after exposure. Message effects were compared between heavy and moderate drinkers to identify any differences by drinking status. All tested messages were effective among both groups of drinkers, suggesting that they could be used as a suite of rotating messages on alcoholic beverages.
Conclusions: The results indicate the potential for alcohol warning statements to improve drinkers’ awareness of the alcohol-cancer link and favourably influence alcohol consumption intentions. As such, they should be given consideration by policy makers as a means of informing drinkers of alcohol-related harms.