Dry July Foundation encourages drinkers to go without alcohol for a month to raise money for cancer. This year the charity will partner with alcohol retailer BWS in a move public health advocates describe as "bizarre" and completely "wrong".
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The partnership between Woolworths-owned alcohol retailer BWS and sobriety challenge charity Dry July has been labelled as an "empty manipulative gesture".
The Dry July Foundation encourages participants to abstain from alcohol for a month while raising funds for cancer charities. In a marketing campaign launched last week, BWS said it would partner with Dry July and promote no-alcohol beverages, and has so-far raised almost $5,000.
Public health advocates have condemned the partnership as a "shocking and ill-conceived sobriety stunt."
The Foundation for Alcohol Research Education has called on Dry July to terminate the partnership and "repel" the influence of the alcohol industry in the future.
"Unless every BWS outlet shuts up shop for the month, this stunt will do nothing to reduce alcohol harm," chief-executive Michael Thorn said.
"This is a cynical marketing exercise by BWS designed to push the Woolworths' alcohol brand and normalise alcohol."
A 2018 study by the National Drug and Research Institute at Curtin University found 6,000 Australians died from alcohol-attributable disease each year, with more than a third of those deaths cancer related.
Mr Thorn said it is "abhorrent" that BSW claims to care about people affected by cancer, going as far to say the partnership is a form of "pink washing" - when a company claims to care about breast cancer at the same time selling products linked to the disease.
"Alcohol is a class one carcinogen. The alcohol in one bottle of wine has the equivalent cancer risk of smoking five cigarettes for men and 10 cigarettes for women," he said.
The founder of #DontPinkMyDrink and Glasgow Caledonian University professor Carol Emslie said the partnership is bizarre.
"For years, the alcohol industry has promoted breast cancer awareness activities while selling products that are known to be carcinogenic in an attempt to extend their marketing reach to young women," Professor Emslie said.
Dry July began in 2008 when founders decided to abstain from alcohol for a month, asking friends and family to sponsor them to raise money for a TV for their local hospital's waiting room.
The Dry July Foundation has raised $37 million for people affected by cancer, raising more than a million this year alone.
Dry July CEO Brett MacDonald has defended the partnership and said BWS "recognises the shift in attitudes and behaviours to alcohol consumption in Australia."
"We are very selective about who we partner with, and we are pleased that BWS is going to help us raise awareness and funds to support the work we do," he said.
"Prior to the partnership being confirmed, we consulted with our major cancer charity beneficiaries and informed them of the partnership with BWS."