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Should alcohol promotion be banned?

The British Medical Association has called for a ban on alcohol promotions – is it a measure too far or a necessary curb?

Published on October 22nd 2009.

Should alcohol promotion be banned?
Yes: - 45%
No: - 55%

The issue of binge drinking is back in the news once again this week, with rumours that the recent death of Boyzone singer Stephen Gately, could have been caused by excessive alcohol intake.

The BMA is also calling for an end to all promotional deals such as two-for-one purchases and even ladies’ free entry nights. Happy hour could soon just be like any other hour for boozers.

Whilst that rumour has not been confirmed as true, when an otherwise healthy 33-year-old passes away after a night out in a club for no apparent reason, it’s difficult not to jump to the conclusion that some form of drugs or alcohol were involved. After all, 33,000 people in the UK die from alcohol related causes each year. That’s ten times as many people as die on the roads every year, according to Drink Aware.

Acute alcohol poisoning is usually a direct result of binge drinking. Most people have experienced a binge drinking session, even enjoyed it, but few realise the amount of alcohol it takes to actually become poisoned. Science says our bodies can process about one unit of alcohol per hour. Any more than that and the levels of alcohol in the bloodstream can become dangerously high and in the most extreme cases this can lead to the heart stopping, inhaling vomit, comas, brain damage and even death.

In a bid to tackle the soaring cost of alcohol-related harm, the British Medical Association (BMA) has called for a total ban on alcohol advertising, including sports events and music festival sponsorship. On top of this, the BMA is also calling for an end to all promotional deals such as two-for-one purchases and even ladies’ free entry nights. Happy hour could soon just be like any other hour for boozers.

But do these proposals risk tarring alcohol with the same brush as other illegal drugs? After all, drinking alcohol is for many, part of our national culture and to censor it in such a way could be depriving the majority of people who don’t suffer from alcohol poisoning, their right to an enjoyable, guilt-free night out. And that night out of course includes the well-marketed new drinks, discounts, promotions and offers that go with them. You have probably even eyed up a few on this website today.

Following the lead of tough drinking laws in Ireland, the ‘Under the Influence’ report is set to shake up what it defines as a society ‘awash with pro-alcohol messaging and marketing’ in the UK.

The author of the report, Professor Gerard Hastings said: “Given the alcohol industry spends £800m a year in promoting alcohol in the UK, it is no surprise that children and young people see it everywhere – on TV, in magazines, on billboards, as part of music festivals or football sponsorship deals, on internet pop-ups and on social networking sites. All these promotional activities serve to normalise alcohol as an essential part of everyday life. It is no surprise that young people are drawn to alcohol.”

The new BMA report also renews the call for other tough measures such as a minimum price per unit on alcoholic drinks and for them to be taxed higher than the rate of inflation. However the BMA has stressed that far from being anti-alcohol, they want the focus shifted from promoting various drinks and nights out to drinking sensibly and knowing when you’re in danger. In other words, it’s time targeted marketing served the needs of public health, not the alcohol industry.

Surely something does need to be done to address the fact that between 2007 and 2008, 500 people were admitted to hospital with alcohol poisoning in England every week? But is this the solution?

Advertisers are likely to say they’re being used as a scapegoat for alcohol related health problems and on the other side of the debate, the smoking ban serves as proof that, when forced, we can change our ways for the better, for good. Is it such a bad proposal when our health interests are at heart?

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5 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

DigOctober 13th 2009.

Just to clear the matter up. The coroners report said it wasn't alcohol that caused Stephen Gately's death. Apparently the report did suggest he died in a similar way to Ayrton Senna... With skid marks on his helmet.

ObserverOctober 13th 2009.

Louis Walsh needs to move on and get back on bike and the X Factor. he will be getting the sack from Simon Cowell.

The Voice of ReasonOctober 13th 2009.

This is just more persecution of the law-abiding, like the smoking ban in pubs. The powers-that-be might consider spending taxpayers' money controlling illegal things, like guns, antisocial behaviour and crime rather than taking the stick to the hard-pressed taxpayer yet again.

AnonymousOctober 13th 2009.

It won't stop me buying it

JoanOctober 13th 2009.

Cutting out alcohol advertising doesn't persecute anyone - no one is suggesting banning drinking, just banning the kind of advertising that glamourises drinking whilst glossing over the side effects of alcohol. I love a drink, but there has to be a better awareness of where alcohol misuse can lead, especially for young people.

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