Plenty has been said this week about the British Medical Association’s call for a total ban on alcohol advertising and there’s not a lot I can add to it. But one point that hasn’t received much attention is the enormous amount of information disseminated about alcoholic drinks that is not paid for directly by the producers. There are societies devoted to the appreciation of beer, wine and spirits, magazines, guide books, newspaper columns and a growing number of internet listings and blogs. In this respect it is totally different from the tobacco market where, as far as I can see, there never has been any significant amount of amateur appreciation.
Most people with a serious interest in alcoholic drinks will probably get much more information from these informal sources than from paid-for advertising. Obviously, though, there is plenty of scope for behind-the-scenes manipulation by drinks producers, which would assume more significance if conventional advertising was outlawed. But do the doctors really want a situation where the Good Beer Guide is a banned publication and I’m committing an offence if I write on this blog that I had a good pint of Robinson’s in the Arden Arms? Regrettably, given the tone of many of their recent pronouncements, I fear the answer is “Yes”.