The media is filled at the moment with talk of the British Medical association wanting a total ban on all forms of alcohol advertising. It is advising this as a measure to curb the culture of binge drinking that is now prevalent in UK society. More so among young people than any other segment of society. But would a ban on advertising really be effective?
The report states that approximately 96% of thirteen year olds were aware of alcohol advertising in one form or another. We can’t really say that this is a surprising figure in a world where we are bombarded with advertising from all directions. The report also pointed towards the positive impact that a ban on tobacco advertising had. I personally think that it is hard to compare tobacco and alcohol in this light. For years the health issues regarding smoking had been forced upon us. Cigarette packets have had health warnings on them for more than three decades. Even now when we are fully aware of the impact that drinking can have on our health there are still no warnings on alcohol packaging. Even before the ban on tobacco advertising the number of smokers was waning.
The main problem with this issue is the fact that it has very quickly become political. There are other measures that have been recommended by the health association in their report but these will be less popular with the masses than a ban on advertising. These include an increase in tax on alcohol, a ban on reduced price drinks offers, including ‘happy hours’ and a reduction in licensing hours.
Political parties have to walk a fine line between pleasing the big companies (who provide them with funding) and pleasing the general public (who vote for them). The big companies would not like to see a ban on alcohol advertising for reasons that are more than obvious. The general public will not want to see anything that will hit them in their pockets.
If we treat this as a political issue then it will come down to tit for tat vote winning by the political parties. This will never stop the binge drinking culture that we have in this country. What are needed are not measures that are designed to restrict us but measures that go a lot deeper than that. What is really needed here is a policy to change the way that alcohol is perceived in this country. What we really need to do is change the way that we use, or more to the point abuse, alcohol.
This makes it not a political issue but a personal one. It is an issue that we each need to confront, not just for our health but for our society as well.