Friday, December 01, 2006

And now on to alcohol

Ofcom may have only just set out new rules for junk food advertising, but campaigners are already gearing up to protest about another evil in our society – alcohol. The "national agency on alcohol misuse" Alcohol Concern is now planning to lobby MPs to gain support for a ban on all alcohol advertising before the 9pm watershed.

But what would such a ban mean? Certainly in Scotland, alcohol advertising and sponsorship seems to pervade many aspects of our lives. It's on our Premier League football tops, it's sponsoring arts events such as the Fringe, comedy festival, film festival, book festival and 'T In The Park'. It's in magazines and on the television. This is the very thing that campaigners are opposed to. It's argued that this type of mainstream promotion "normalises alcohol" and promotes it to under-age people who are attracted by the association with an activity of interest to them.

In September of this year, the government rejected calls for tighter controls on alcohol advertising and sponsorship. Buoyed by the recent ban on junk food however, campaigners are set to fight once again.

Countries such as Kenya and Norway have complete bans on advertising alcohol on TV and billboards, while other Scandinavian countries also have tight controls. Britain may not have this, but there are strict controls over the content of alcohol ads, such as a ban on using cartoons or anything that may attract an under-age audience. Drink companies also now are not allowed to imply that there is a link between the consumption of alcohol and social or sexual success. Furthermore, they have to preach the importance of responsible drinking. Companies such as Diageo have even appointed celebrities, in their case Formula 1 World Champion Mika Hakkinen, as responsible drinking ambassadors. But is this enough?

The problem of alcohol in Scotland, and Britain as a whole, is certainly not all to blame on marketing making us want something that we wouldn't normally. Yes, alcoholism and under-age drinking is a huge problem in this country, but I cannot believe that it is all down to advertising and sponsorship. Long before televisions, billboards and football sponsorship, etc. there was still a great number of alcoholics in this country. Taking away advertising is not the solution. Better education and changing attitudes towards alcohol is. The government is trying to address these problems. Yes, perhaps they have not gone far enough, but the problem is too deep rooted to be solved in only a few years.

Let's not turn the country into a complete nanny state. Many people can drink socially and do not have a problem. Many young adults under the age of 18 do not drink. Festivals such as the Fringe bring so many tourists into the country and are events that everyone can enjoy.

Marketing is not evil – honest!



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