The Running Commentary

Advertising is not the root of alcohol abuse……….

In another attempt by government to apportion blame to an industry for the way people abuse a product, we see that the health minister is continuing with his desire to see all forms of alcohol advertising banned. We hear that the Minister, Aaron Motsoaledi, is so determined to see all forms of alcohol advertising banned, that he is prepared to pay the industry “the R400 million from my own budget to cover their costs”.

One can only assume that he holds the view that it is the advertising that causes folk to abuse the alcohol. I am not sure that you can hold an advertiser responsible for the way in which a product is consumed, unless they are directing you to do so in an irresponsible way, and then we have several measures in place to deal with this.

I was intrigued to look into seeing whether advertising, or the withdrawal of it, in anyway impacts the rate of alcohol consumption. More importantly was there a reduction in associated issues or crime and violence. During my search for information I could not find anything that had scientific basis to support the claims made around the reduction of associated instances. What I did find (the first link on Google) was the following site  the contents of which, was very interesting. I have absolutely no illusions that this has been placed by people in the industry and with very clever use of SEO, they have insured that it is at the top. The contents though remain interesting. The site is peppered with arguments that refute a link between advertising and the abuse of alcohol.

I imagine that there will be many who will offer counter sites and sources of information, but my initial feeling still remains. How can advertising be held as the culprit for people who cannot control themselves and, is it even responsible to say that this will cure or even reduce the instances of violence that are committed as a result of alcohol abuse.

Mine is not a fear of us becoming a nanny state, by the way, my fear is that the government is constantly seeking to draw attention away from the real issues facing our citizens. Alcohol advertising has no effect on the employment rate, except that the people in the industry actually have jobs. While the abuse of alcohol may lead to violence, I don’t think that anyone can argue that the highest portion of violent crime is committed by people who are completely sober.

You cannot blame advertising for the abuse of a product. You can only blame the abuser of the product. Self control is just that self-control and the removal of advertising will have no impact on those who are addicted. I think that the minister and his department should be focusing on bigger fish, like getting the more than 30 000 vacant nursing positions filled and building a more robust public health system.

abuseAdvertisingalcoholCrimeDirect MarketingMarketingpoliticsresponsibilitysocial mediaSouth Africa

Mike • September 8, 2011


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