Challenging social norms and the alcohol industry

We live in a pro-alcohol environment where alcohol is positioned at the centre of our lives.

Marketing over many decades has positioned drinking as desirable, attractive, something to make us feel more fun, more alive and more popular.

Alcohol is everywhere, from power walls of bottles and cans in supermarkets, big name drinks brands sponsoring major sports tournaments and music festivals and even alcohol industry tie-ins with movies.

In the same vein the alcohol industry and its catchphrase “Drink Responsibly” is designed to give people the message that alcohol is harmless to the average drinker. Big alcohol encourages us to see harms arising from alcohol as someone else’s problem and an issue only to those drinking to excess.

But medical evidence is now clear there is no such thing as a safe level of alcohol. Alcohol is a Class One Carcinogen which means any level of regular drinking increases cancer risk.

Read this factsheet on alcohol and cancer from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for Europe

We also know both children and people who have had serious issues with alcohol, or been through recovery are hugely affected by alcohol marketing.

Almost 1 million people in the North East are drinking above the low risk guidelines of  no more than 14 alcohol units per week.

Balance takes a bold approach when it comes to challenging the alcohol industry’s framing of the issue and the tactics it deploys to promote its products.

We question the wider environment in which alcohol is seen as normal and desirable whilst fostering increased awareness of the tactics used by ‘big alcohol’ and the inappropriateness of using industry funded and developed resources.

Karen went through recovery from alcohol addiction - she talks about alcohol marketing

"Drinking responsibly" - what does it mean????

The alcohol industry uses the term “drink responsibly” on most of its advertising and marketing. But what does this mean?

What does it mean for the thousands of people in our communities who have overcome an alcohol addiction or need support for alcohol addiction? And how does promoting a “responsible” level of drinking relate to the fact any level of regular drinking is now known to raise the risks of seven types of cancer?

Alcohol companies have been heavily criticised for using “drink responsibly” as a deliberately vague term which provides no real information about what it means. Many public health experts also claim this is simply a corporate social responsibility smokescreen to deflect blame for the harm of alcohol away from big corporations and onto individuals.. Research now shows:

Balance has produced a briefing and we  advise all partners to avoid this term – read Balance’s Drinking Responsibly briefing

Read this study from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health –Drink Responsibly’ Messages in Alcohol Ads Promote Products, Not Public Health



There is significant to show alcohol advertising has an impact upon drinking attitudes and behaviour amongst young people.

Alcohol marketing encourages young people todrink earlier and once they have started, it encourages them to consume more; and it is both the content and volume of advertising and marketing that causes the damage.

Read our Balance briefing on Young People and Alcohol Advertising

Read the Alcohol Health Alliance briefing “No Escape” – how alcohol advertising preys on children and vulnerable people”