Monday, 16 July 2012

Do As We Say, Not As We Do

It was nagging at me, but thanks to a fellow blogger, we can close the file on something which had been baffling about a Telegraph article I referred to on Sunday.

Specifically. This part.
During hearings, MPs were sceptical about examples given by the drinks industry of progress made since the deal, such as plans by one company to reduce the strength of a premium lager by 0.2 per cent.

MPs said a person would need to drink 25 pints before the change made any impact to the number of units that they drank.
This is by far the most baffling stanza in the whole piece. 25 pints? Why 25 pints? However much I play around with this, there is no reference point, they may as well say reducing by 0.2% won't do anything to help paint Emperor penguins blue by 2015.
The Pub Curmudgeon, knowledgeable stick that he is, has at least identified the brand in question, along with his customary sane commentary.
One point they make is that reducing the strength of some premium lagers by 0.2% ABV is no more than a token gesture. Maybe it is, but in a competitive market there must come a point when such strength reductions start to encounter consumer resistance, especially if not everyone moves at once.

I’m not normally a buyer of the mainstream premium lagers, but I wonder whether even now there is an effect of some customers rejecting 4.8% Stella in favour of competitors like Heineken that are still the full 5%, or even the 5.6% Polish brews like Tyskie and Zywiec.
So, it's Stella, is it? It figures. The scapegoat for everything anti-drink campaigners hate.

Strong. Successful. Popular. And like McDonald's is to food snobs, singled out by the generally left of centre public health industry for scaremongery in their drive to raise government funding for their next exclusive Caribbean holiday, while simultaneously shitting on the working class folk who quite enjoy drinking the stuff.

Stella, being corporates who still believe appeasement will work with these self-shilling frauds, reduce the strength to below 5% and get hammered for it anyway. "It's pathetic", they cry!

But the Curmudgeon is correct in saying that they have already gone beyond the call of duty by exposing themselves to market losses. If the alcohol control industry were not so hideously self-indulgent, manufacturers of Stella should have been congratulated rather than ridiculed.

After all, public health - of all people - should know that acceptance by the public comes very gradually. There is no way in the world that ASH would have driven through a smoking ban in pubs in, say, 1998. They knew that very well, which is why their Director at the time denied it as vehemently as he could muster.
Clive Bates, director of anti-smoking group ASH, said: "This is a scaremongering story by a tobacco industry front group.

"No-one is seriously talking about a complete ban on smoking in pubs and restaurants."
At that point in history, they knew they would risk turning the whole pub-going population against them for good if they admitted their true agenda. So they decided instead to pare off little salami slices until their lies were embedded more firmly.

With that in mind, you could call Stella's approach - an inoffensive 0.2% slice from their ABV - entirely in keeping with previous public health methodology. If Stella are to be criticised for their lack of action, so should ASH be condemned for their utter cowardice in 1998.

But the game has changed, as Deborah Arnott helpfully - and stupidly - revealed in the Guardian in 2006.
First, frame the argument. For years, action on smoking in public places was mired in discussion about the claimed "freedom" and "rights" of smokers, and the need for "voluntary" shifts towards compromise solutions, particularly in pubs, restaurants and clubs. We changed the terms of the debate to health and safety at work. We argued that secondhand smoke is a killer
There you have it. The 'argument' for reducing alcohol harm has now been 'framed' in the same way.

"Freedom" and "rights" of drinkers are no longer considered. Small steps which were once a ploy of anti-smokers are now not acceptable for drinks manufacturers to copy.

Whereas ASH were rightly cautious, the same approach by the makers of Stella is condemned as being derisory.

The "terms of the debate" have changed, and drink is from now on to be deemed "a killer", with no baby steps or salami slices allowed by the hypocrites of public health. The tobacco template is not so much being followed, as being done so at a world record sprint.

At this rate, the tobacco industry's 40 year demise is going to look like it was filmed in super slo-mo compared with the swift dagger to the heart alcohol is going to suffer unless they start fighting back properly. And Soon.


Curmudgeon said...

Also Carlsberg Export. As I'm sure you've worked out, the 25 pints thing is that you'd have to drink 25 pints of it to have consumed one pint's worth less of alcohol.

Apparently canned and bottled Strongbow is also to be cut from 5.3% to 5.0%.

Dick_Puddlecote said...

No, I hadn't. It truly baffled me. Ta for the explanation, though, even if it's stupid reasoning.

MPs add £2.12 to a monthly salary after a tiny budget concession and call it a roaring success. They obsess over 0.25% on the interest rate. If they don't understand the significance of small margins, they might as well sack themselves and wibble on a street corner somewhere. 

Jax said...

I remember posting a comment in the Publican pointing out that anti-alcohol would move a lot, lot quicker than anti-tobacco did, because anti-tobacco had been exploring the then-new territory of completely demonising a previously enjoyed and accepted product/activity, and clearly had to take the time to plan their strategy, make mistakes here and there and backtrack, wait and see which of their tactics worked and which didn’t etc etc – and that all of these things take time. 
Anti-alcohol, on the other hand – particularly in the light of their recent tutoring session, dressed up as an information “exchange” – can move much more quickly.  They can go straight for the jugular, because anti-tobacco has shown them exactly where the jugular is; they can mirror all of anti-tobacco’s successful techniques with just a few relatively minor adaptations in the sure knowledge that they’ll work; and they can avoid the costly and time-consuming mistakes that anti-tobacco had to make for themselves because no-one had ever made them before.  As a result, it’s highly likely that the switch in public attitudes from one whereby alcohol is regarded as a pleasant addition to oil the wheels of any social occasion and make it special, to one whereby anyone who insists on “getting plastered” at any social occasion “ruins the night for everyone” and is regarded as a “selfish nuisance” who is not welcome “in my home,” is likely to take place far, far more quickly than the shift in attitudes towards smoking could ever have been.
If I had to put money on it, I’d guess it will take about a quarter of the time for anti-alcohol to get to the same stage as anti-smoking is now, i.e. roughly 10 years.  Which gives drinkers about three more guilt-free years of drinking, then about another five of guilty drinking, followed by two or three of intense and sustained persecution and libellous blame for each and every social ill to ever befall mankind, culminating in legislation which all but prohibits them from drinking anywhere where there’s the remotest possibility that any non-drinker will be able to see them, smell alcohol on their breath or be affected by them in any way at all.  And, as all we smokers know – even then it won’t be enough …

Dick_Puddlecote said...

We'll see in 2022, but you won't be far from the truth IMO. 

nisakiman said...

How depressing.

Where I live, all beer is a standard 5% unless it's imported.

Dick_Puddlecote said...

Indeed. And the stuff anti-alcohol condemn as being 'cheaper than water' is 2%. You can't buy lies and misdirection like that unless with government cash. 

tim.bone said...

Reminds me of how the tobacco industry made cigarettes weaker by creating the low tar cigarette. This too was eventually thrown back at them. As for the consumer, there are people quite happy to sip a low alcohol lager or wine, just as there are those who enjoy a silk cut or a Marlboro Light. I personally would, as you suggest, prefer a mineral water to a Tesco Value Lager (2%). At least in the case of the low tar cigarette, you could wrap some invisible sticky back around the tip to cover the holes, and it was back to what it should be, as the contents of the cigarette were the same, eg, B&H light became a B&H full fat. With an alcoholic drink however, this is not the case. To reduce the ABV is to interrupt the fermentation process, or even worse, reduce/change some of the original ingredients.

Frank Davis said...

smell alcohol on their breath

Well, alcohol is a class A carcinogen!

JonathanBagley said...

Dick, don't you think that if Clive Bates hadn't been replaced as Head of ASH in 2003, we would still have smoking in non food pubs? It was only just prior to the ban law being passed that it came to include all non residential buildings.

Dick_Puddlecote said...

That's debatable as the main problem, IMO, are certain individuals within the DoH. But we would probably be having a more mature debate on the snus ban, along with a more friendly regime towards e-cigs.

JonathanBagley said...

Yes, and if snus were available, male smoking prevalence would almost certainly be less than the current (and for the last three years 22%), even with smoking rooms in pubs. In fact, taking away these options makes some, including myself, less likely to ever quit. And, importantly, many smokers would have cut down and relaced some of their cigarettes with snus - as they are now doing with ecigs.

Furor Teutonicus said...

If people want to drink with the sole intention of getting pissed, as opposed to a social "night out", then they will just drink the amount they need to achieve their objective. Cutting the strength makes NO bloody difference at all.

From what I saw living in West Lothian, people who are piss artists, as opposed to drinkers, don't buy the likes of Stella any way. It is Callys with Buckys thrown in (Carlsberg special with Buckfast "wine", for the non speakers of "central Scotland  scheme dweller",) or, in Liverpool, the strongest, cheapest cider they can find, with half a bottle of Yates "wine".

And, if after that they are STILL not pissed, they just obtain more.

Curmudgeon said...

There are already clear signs of a distinct change in the general social attitude to alcohol consumption. As I wrote here,

"Overall, we as a society drink a bit more (maybe around 10%) than we did
in the late 70s, but our relationship with alcohol has changed. It is
no longer something to be enjoyed in moderation (and often with a vague
sense of naughtiness) as part of everyday life, but something to be
consumed more deliberately when other responsibilities can be set aside.
People place far more emphasis on not touching a drop in “normal”
situations than they used to. Just “going to the pub”, without involving
a meal, is no longer an acceptable leisure pursuit in polite society.

Drinking is increasingly going to become something done in a clandestine manner by people perceived by the great and the good as seedy and irresponsible.

Single acts of tyranny said...

"such as plans by one company to reduce the strength of a premium lager by 0.2 per cent.MPs said a person would need to drink 25 pints before the change made any impact to the number of units that they drank"

Well according to

1 pint of stella at 4.8% is 2.7 units, whereas 1 pint of stella at 5% is 2.8 units.

So in order to drink one less unit of alcohol ten pints of the stronger stuff is 28 units whereas ten pints of the weaker stuff is 27 units.  

These cunts vote on complex financial matters.                   

Dick_Puddlecote said...

Thanks SAoT, that's the way I was thinking. Units rather than pints, hence my bafflement. It seems they choose the jumbo jet numbers to suit.