Monday, 11 June 2012

Doctors’ orders

It was reported over the weekend that the Alcohol Health Alliance, a body comprising more than thirty medical groups and charities, had called for a total ban on TV alcohol advertising and sports sponsorship.

Sir Ian Gilmore, chairman of the Alcohol Health Alliance (AHA), said extreme measures were required to "reset society's norms" and protect children from marketing messages which glamorise drinking and fuel excess consumption...

In terms of consumption, we need to change the norms, to get back to where we were 20 or 30 years ago.

Well, according to the 2011 BBPA Statistical Handbook, in 2010 we consumed an average of 10.2 litres of alcohol per head, compared with 9.8 litres in 1990 (4% less) and 9.4 litres in 1980 (8% less), so things aren’t really all that different.

In fact, the AHA are already getting what they want, as average consumption has been steadily falling since 2004. It has been recently reported that alcohol consumption has continued its steady decline, so the latest figures will be even lower. And I seem to remember the late 80s being a time of media frenzy over “lager louts”.

It has always seemed to me that alcohol advertising is unlikely to have much effect on overall consumption levels anyway. People take up drinking through social influences, not through advertising. All advertising really does is to make them more likely to consume premium products rather than bog-standard generic ones. If anything, the main role of advertising restrictions is to act as a symbol of official disapproval of drinking rather than to reduce consumption.

Of course none of this has been inspired to any degree whatsoever by existing curbs on tobacco advertising. Move along now, folks, no slippery slope to see here.

The AHA also called for a minimum price of 50 pence a unit, rather than the government’s proposed 40p, which it says “would mean 97,000 fewer hospital admissions a year within 10 years”. No surprise there, then. And when 50p doesn’t “work”, no doubt they’ll call for it to be 60p. And then 70p and so on...

And, yet again, a news story about alcohol “problems” is accompanied by a picture of a pint of beer.


  1. It's funny how we're never told the methodology behind statements that X measure will result in Y fewer deaths or hospital admissions. If they're using a computer model, it will do no more than it is programmed to do by a person, possibly with an agenda of his or her own.

  2. And of course what they never tell you - even if it was true what they say is that real lives are not saved, but rather a number of minutes per year per person is extrapolated to "lives".

    If you are statistically "likely" to "lose" 20 or 40 minutes a year on average, would it actually matter to you?

    As for 97,000 hospital admissions - fantasy.

  3. Can I complain about the lack of a gratuitous pop at CAMRA? There was plenty of opportunity for a pop at the beard club but you failed to take it. CAMRA policy is to support advertising restrictions on alcohol.

  4. Doubtless our zythophilos blogger Martyn Cornell will have his fingers planted firmly in his ears, while singing "la,lala,lala, I can't hear you..."

    Indeed, not even a hint of a slippery slope to be seen.

    In a comment on his blog, I said at one point that I would put money on there being alcohol smart cards within ten years, pre-loaded with the number of units the government sees fit to allow you. He offered me a £1000 bet on it! Ha! Maybe I should go back and get a screen grab of that bit of the comments!

  5. Talk about lies, damn lies and statistics! Who comes up with this rubbish in the first place, and what are their twisted motives?

  6. Fake charities and tax-leeching 'academics' come up with it.

    Their motives are a) money, and b) power.

  7. “It has always seemed to me that alcohol advertising is unlikely to have much effect on overall consumption levels anyway.”

    Correct, but that’s not the point. Nor, for that matter, is the imagined number of lives which will be saved by people not drinking because they haven’t seen any adverts (as if!).

    The rationale behind calling for restrictions on alcohol advertising (or any kind of advertising, for that matter, depending on whichever “Crusaders” you are talking about) is that it cuts off a revenue stream from the media, so that that media no longer has any kind of incentive to offer balanced reports on the substance/activity in question, and every incentive to offer reports which support the views of the opposition – who, of course, will still be allowed to advertise, and who will still have the ability to withdraw that revenue if the TV channel/radio station/newspaper (or whatever) doesn’t report things just as they want.

    It’s how Tobacco Control “bought” the media and it’s how Alcohol Control will do the same. Not that I’d dream of using the “S … S …” words, of course …

    Proposed bans on advertising might not seem like as much of a big deal to all you ale-lovers as minimum pricing or increased duty but long-term it’s a lot more threatening. Given the choice between fighting price rises – in whatever form they come – or proposed advertising bans, then advertising bans must be the one to choose, because once they’ve “got” the media, they’ve “got” most of the public. And we all know where that leads, don’t we?

  8. Professor Pie-Tin18 June 2012 at 17:43

    At the other end of the spectrum I bring you this advertisement from Tampa's Creative Loafing event guide.

    "Calling all drinkers! Get your game on for the 6th annual World Drinking Games Saturday, June 23, at Carmine’s in Ybor. If this is the first you’re hearing of it, it’s a bit late to participate; the event, presented by Little Peckers, sold out in 11 days. But you can still make it a spectator sport: $20 gets you in to watch and all the beer you can drink plus other food and drink specials. For participants, registration will begin at noon and the games will start at 1 p.m. The events this year will be the Boot Chug, Cornhole, Beer Pong, Rock'em Sock'em Robots, Rock-Paper-Scissors, Boat Race, Flip Cup, and a costume contest. All events are subject to change or cancellation depending on the sobriety of the contestants. All of the proceeds of the event will be going to charity. "


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