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The need for cancer warnings on alcohol packaging

A recent survey reveals that 61% of Australians are not aware of the fact that drinking alcohol increases cancer risk.//

According to the Salvation Army survey, binge drinking was "worryingly high" among teenage girls and young women. 16% of the 14 to 17-year-olds and 41 % of the18 to 24-year-olds confessed to take not less than 7 drinks in a single session in a month.

"What is of such concern is that people don't know the facts - and they need to," Salvation Army spokesman Major Mike Coleman said. "The World Cancer Research Fund says even low levels of alcohol increase the risk of colorectal and breast cancer and the Harvard Center for Cancer Prevention says drinking increases the risk of numerous cancers. "One of the things that we're calling for is health warnings on alcohol packaging so that - in the same way that we've now become aware of the hazards of tobacco over the past couple of decades - that we may also have that same level of awareness through the community of the hazards of alcohol."

Today, a new campaign will be introduced by the Salvos with the intention of bringing out the hazards of alcohol abuse and its association with cancers, like breast, liver and larynx cancer. According to the organization, annually, excessive drinking takes life of 3000 people and leaves nearly 65,000 people hospitalized.

The other findings of the survey are: 96 % of respondents think alcohol is an addictive drug and 94 % believe alcohol can cause brain damage. 36 % of males aged 14 or over drank double (at least six to 10 drinks) or more in any one session. Almost 3/4ths of the respondents support health warnings on all alcohol products.

"We're not saying if you drink alcohol, you get cancer, but there is an increased risk," Coleman said. "To give you an idea of the size of that risk, Cancer Council in New South Wales is saying that if we drink one standard drink a day, it increases the risk of cancer by abou t 11 per cent." "It's time to wake up. We aren't saying people should never drink - we are saying 'let's wake up to the facts of what's happening'," Major Coleman said.

According to Salvos spokesman Gerard Byrne, Australia exports alcohol to nations where it is mandatory to have health warnings on alcohol packaging. "We actually print the labels here, put them on the alcohol, send it overseas to these countries, yet we don't do that for our own citizens," he said. "It's something that the Australian Government has been slow in legislating for and we think it's about time that we definitely moved towards that."

"As a society, we have educated ourselves about tobacco and all the culture changed - now it's time for alcohol to go under the microscope," said Major Coleman.

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