The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) has said it is “extremely disappointed” after the UK's advertising authorities dismissed complaints about an “alarmist” advert linking alcohol consumption to cancer.

The TV ad, from North East-based alcohol-awareness charity Balance, featured a man drinking beer, with a small tumour in the bottom of the glass seen sliding towards his mouth. A voiceover said: “The World Health Organisation classifies alcohol as a group one carcinogen. Like tobacco and asbestos, it can cause cancer. The more you drink and the more often you drink, the more you increase your risk of developing cancer.”

The BBPA, along with the Campaign for Real Ale, the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA), brewer J W Lees and three other complainants, argued the ad was “misleading and irresponsible” as it suggested that drinking a small amount, or moderately, would increase the risk of cancer.  

However, the UK Advertising Standards Authority today (23 April) rejected the complaints. “We did not consider that the ad over-emphasised the risk of developing alcohol-related cancers, or suggested that viewers should significantly reduce their intake or abstain from the consumption of alcohol completely,” the ruling said. 

The BBPA's chief executive, Brigid Simmonds, said: “We are extremely disappointed with this judgement... it does not explain to viewers that the risk from cancer for moderate drinkers is low, and alcohol drunk in moderation can be beneficial to overall health. We need a measured and informed debate on alcohol, and we will continue to raise concerns where we feel the issues are being unfairly presented.” 

Reacting to the ruling, Colin Shevills, Balance's director said: “We are delighted at the ASA’s decision – this is a real victory for the health community. Sections of the alcohol industry have tried to prevent us providing health messages to the public, which is highly irresponsible. It also shows an industry which is putting profits before health and wellbeing - similar tactics to those that were employed by the tobacco industry.” 

To read the ASA's full ruling, click here.