Red flags on pinkwashed drinks: contradictions and dangers in marketing alcohol to prevent cancer

Addiction. 2015 Oct;110(10):1541-8. doi: 10.1111/add.13035.


Aims: To document alcohol products and promotions that use the pink ribbon symbol and related marketing materials that associate alcohol brands with breast cancer charities, awareness and survivors.

Methods: We conducted a basic Boolean public internet search for alcohol products with pink ribbon/breast cancer awareness marketing campaigns.

Results: There is strong and growing evidence of alcohol as a contributing cause of several types of cancer, including breast cancer. There is no U-shaped curve for cancer, and threshold of elevated relative risk is as low as one drink a day for certain cancers. We found 17 examples of alcohol product campaigns with websites, press releases and social media posts, along with news articles and blog posts from industry and non-profit organizations regarding alcohol products associated with breast cancer causes and charities. Various cancer charities have entered into alliances with sectors of the alcohol industry that raise funds for breast cancer research, treatment or prevention by promoting the purchase of certain alcoholic beverages.

Conclusions: Some alcohol corporations use pink ribbons and other breast cancer-related images, messages and user-generated media to market a product that contributes to cancer disease and death. Therefore, cancer charities should adopt policies to separate them from alliances with the alcohol industry.

Keywords: Alcohol corporations; breast cancer; cancer charities; cause marketing; corporate social responsibility; pinkwashing; vested interests.

MeSH terms

  • Alcoholic Beverages*
  • Awareness
  • Breast Neoplasms*
  • Charities*
  • Food Industry
  • Fund Raising
  • Humans
  • Marketing*