Over the past few years I have often been critical of the great and good of CAMRA for naively refusing to acknowledge the glaring parallels between the campaigns against tobacco and alcohol. However, in the December issue of the CAMRA newspaper What’s Brewing (not online, but available for download to members) there is a perhaps surprising outbreak of common sense in the form of an opinion piece by Denzil Vallance of Great Heck Brewery entitled Packaging Legislation Plain Wrong.
This is a clear warning that the proposed legislation for plain packaging of tobacco contains a very clear potential risk for the brewing industry, which explicitly recognises the principle of the “slippery slope”:
It has now started with cigarettes, where the government is considering removing branding through so-called standardised packaging. But this opens a door, which could lead to alcohol and fast food.Well said that man – if I ever see his beer on the bar of a pub I’ll definitely give it a try.
For many years CAMRA has had an official policy opposing the “mass-media” advertising of alcoholic drinks, which most members tended to hold their nose and ignore in the same way as Labour Party members and Clause Four. But what they don’t seem to realise is that, far from helping small producers at the expense of the big boys, restrictions on advertising and promotion inevitably tend to favour established, familiar brands over small players and new entrants. In a world where there is no advertising and no distinctive packaging, in effect there can be no new products, and the only marketing tool that remains is price.
Of course plain packaging for alcohol is still some way away, but it is already being touted by anti-drink activists as a logical next step from tobacco.