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Ban on advertising will not change the binge drinking culture

September 11, 2009 Tags:
Below the letter I sent to the Times about the recent proposal of banning drinking advertising.

Sir, I was very surprised to read that one of the solution for the binge drinking problem, especially the under age one, according to the BMA, is attributed to advertising; it is like if we would ban condom brands advertising because it could push more youngster to have sex and therefore, contribute to teenage pregnancy. And, if advertising is the main cause of the problem, why, all money spent by the government in their campaign against binge drinking does not work? It should not work the same way? It has also been said to ban drinking companies to sponsor events, with many of them being cultural. These events, if it was not for these sponsorships, would never been realised because the audience is insignificant for any other industry and, without them, we will all be a little more ignorant. Is this what we want?

The main issue is cultural, and will take time to change it, however, a more immediate action that the government can take is to stop the cheap drink industry. If it was not for them, binge drinking will be a luxury. You can imagine binge drinking with bottles of wine worth £10? Not only, if this problem is not tackled, the only winners are the supermarkets, and everyone loses and the problem gets worst. The NHS; the conscientious drinkers, because every time the problem is mentioned, the government increases the duty; the producers that are squeezed even more by the supermarkets; the consumers, because cheap is synonym of poor quality; the other retailers because they need to put prices up every time the government increased duty therefore losing customers; the workers that in third world countries are even more exploited by the producers that need to match supermarkets' prices; the workers in the industrialised countries because producers cut jobs to reduce cost, again, to match supermarkets' prices.

Unfortunately supermarkets have too much power, both, versus the consumers and the suppliers and getting this equilibrium is part of the solution. It is difficult to understand how, with the duty constantly going up, the wine is cheaper now than a few years ago.

The binge drinking problem requires a carefully planned and thought solution, not instinctive actions dictated by emotional situations and the problem does not lie in the advertising but it is a lot more complex and will not be resolved banning advertising.
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