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This policy is currently undergoing a review and is being updated by Cancer Council Australia’s expert Nutrition, Alcohol and Physical Activity Committee.

The policy review is expected to be completed by mid-2024.

Please contact Amanda McAtamney to be updated on when the revised policy will be available or if you have any questions.

Cancer Council’s current priorities to reduce harm from alcohol are outlined below. 

The International Agency for Cancer Research classified alcohol as a Group 1 carcinogen (a known cause of cancer in humans)1. An estimated 3,496 cancers diagnosed in Australian adults in 2013 were attributed to alcohol use2,3. Cancer was one of the top five causes of alcohol-attributable deaths in Australia in 2015. Cancer Council us concerned about the long-term harms of increased alcohol use4.  

Policy priorities

Restrict alcohol advertising and promotion 

Priority: Introduce stronger controls to better protect children and the Australian community from harmful alcohol marketing 

A comprehensive legislative framework for regulating alcohol advertising in Australia is required that covers all forms of alcohol marketing; established clear public policy goals for the regulation of advertising including protecting children and young people; creates an independent regulatory body that administers, investigates and pursues penalties for breaches of the alcohol advertising rules; and introduces meaningful sanctions for serious or persistent non-compliance by advertisers.  

Reform alcohol pricing policy 

Priority: Introduce a volumetric tax with tax increasing for products with higher alcohol volume 

Increasing the price of alcohol through taxation is one of the most effective ways to reduce alcohol use and associated harms. Alcohol taxation should be volumetric – calculated according to alcohol content – with higher taxes on products with higher alcohol content by volume5

Build community awareness of the health effects of drinking alcohol 

Priority: Promote the NHMRC Australian guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol.  

In 2020 NHMRC released updated guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol6. The guidelines provide Australians with evidence-based advice on the health effects of drinking alcohol and help people make informed decisions about how much alcohol they drink, if any. However, Cancer Council research indicates that the public need further education to interpret the guidelines correctly.  

Investment in awareness campaigns supported by plain language resources will help people to interpret the guidelines and consider how they can manage their alcohol consumption. 



  1. International Agency for Research on Cancer. IARC Monographs on the evaluation of carcinogenic risks to humans, volume 96. Alcohol consumption and ethyl carbamate. Lyon, France: IARC; 2010 
  2. Pandeya N, Wilson LF, Webb PM, Neale RE, Bain CJ, Whiteman DC. Cancers in Australia in 2010 attributable to the consumption of alcohol. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health. 2015;39(5):408-13. 
  3. Wilson LF, Antonsson A, Green AC, Jordan SJ, Kendall BJ, Nagle CM, et al. How any cancer cases and deaths are potentially preventable? Estimates for Australia in 2013. International Journal of Cancer. 2018;142(4):691-701. 
  4. Lensvelt E, Gilmore W, Liang W, Sherk A, Chikritzhs T. Estimated alcohol-attributable deaths and hospitalisations in Australian 2004 to 2015. Perth: National Drug Research Institute, Curtin University; 2018. Report No.: Bulletin 16 
  5. World Health Organisation. Tackling NCDs: ‘best buys’ and other recommended interventions for the prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases. World Health Organisation 2017 
  6. National Health and Medical Research Council ARC, Universities Australia,. Australian Guidelines to Reduce Health Risks from Drinking Alcohol. 

Explore our Prevention Policy.