Tuesday, 8 September 2009

This is what health fascism looks like

The British Medical Association is a threat to to our freedom.

That's the only conclusion I can come to with the news today that they're seeking a total ban on alcohol advertising. This is an outrageously over the top response to the problems we have in the UK with regard to booze abuse.

Let's be clear about this: the doctors want to ban the promotion of a perfectly legal product, enjoyed by millions every day, on the grounds that doing so will somehow reduce the problems of binge drinking and the health problems which result. This is nonsense.

If such a ban were introduced, I doubt it would make any real difference to the levels of binge drinking in this country. People don't over-indulge in booze because they've seen an ad on the telly promoting a particular brand of wine or beer - they get drunk because they want to, because of problems in their lives, because they don't know their limits, because they're having too much fun to stop, because of peer pressure, because of 100 different reasons. Indeed, I don't recall seeing too many ads for Buckfast on the telly, but that doesn't stop it being a favourite tipple among teen binge drinkers.

As well as being ineffective, such a ban would also be wrong in principle. This isn't the same as banning tobacco advertising. That's a product which has absolutely positive side, whereas there are numerous health benefits claimed for moderate consumption of alcohol. So we've got the strange situation that doctors' leaders are wanting to ban the promotion of a product which, in moderation, can have significant health benefits - crazy or what?

And a booze ad ban would also have other effects. It's estimated it would cost the media industry somewhere in the region of £180m in advertising revenue, at a time when many companies are suffering significantly as a result of the recession. And according to this story in The Times, drink companies are the second biggest sponsors (behind the financial services sector) of sport in this country, supplying a total of £487 million last year. I wonder how the BMA would propose to fill that £1.4 billion gap between now and the London Olympics if alcohol sponsorship were withdrawn tomorrow?

It's time to stop this health fascism nonsense in its tracks. The mad medical zealots can't be allowed to erode our freedom any further.


Stephen B said...

For a ban to happen, EU directives would need to be changed (see the case of Sweden in this regard).

I think the BMA might find their proposals a bit of a hard sell to the French and Germans for some reason.

Matthew Huntbach said...

Yes, I think the call for an advertising ban is missing the point.

The real problem seems to be that there is a strong attitude in this country which sees alcohol primarily as a drug, and which sees making heavy use of this drug to the point of becoming incapacitated as the natural way to enjoy oneself or to respond to any emotional strain, positive or negative.

This is an attitude I find difficult to understand, as I like the taste of alcohol but find nothing pleasurable at all in its drug effects. Am I alone in this? I do feel so sometimes. Young people in particular who I speak to about this often find my view really weird - to them alcohol is a nasty tasting stuff, and you have to get over the taste to enjoy the effects.

Well, each to their own, but I do wonder at the extent to which this is socially conditioned. Do people enjoy getting drunk or do they do so because they feel that is what is expected of them? We might note the attitude I mention is almost non-existent in other countries. In the wine-drinking countries of southern Europe, getting drunk is not seen as enjoyable, and wine is seen primarily as a food accompaniment. I don't think this is down to different biologies.

How to combat this, particularly within a liberal perspective, is a big problem. I mean combatting anything where people seem forced by convention or fashion to act in some way. Banning it, or forcing artificial restrictions seems all wrong. This argument applies also to the photo-shopped fashion models which are bring discussed at LibDem conference.

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