Friday, 4 March 2011

The Drinks Industry Missed The Boat

I've repeated this many a time since its first appearance in 2009 in relation to an attack on alcohol.

You simply cannot pick and choose which freedoms you like and which you don't. You either stand up to all of the dictatorial bullying, or you will inevitably become a target.
Yet that's exactly what the drinks and hospitality industry refused to do when smokers were being harshly treated. Not their problem, they said.

In fact, many even supported the de-normalisation process.

I once engaged in online debate with an arrogant, self-serving beardy from CAMRA (yes, he did have a beard, seriously). Having mentioned that his smug defence of the smoking ban might come back to haunt his particular vice at some point in the future, he replied with words to the effect of "most of the public like a drink, so that will never happen".
Fast forward a couple of years (as I preen my prescient self) and I'd love to know what such people think of the situation now they are on an equal footing with those evil, filthy smokers.

The Wine and Spirits Trade Association (WSTA), which speaks on behalf of major supermarket chains on alcohol issues, accused organisers of a "calculated and deliberate attempt to mix the issue of alcohol misuse with the known and proven health harms caused by smoking".
Oh dear. No-one saw that coming, did they? Well actually, there was the odd, ahem, blogger or two. Mostly ignored, natch.

WSTA spokesman Gavin Partington said: "The decision to refuse access to those in the industry who wish to discuss issues regarding alcohol misuse openly and honestly only adds to the impression that Alcohol Focus Scotland have their own agenda and wish to stifle debate".
They don't want to debate with you, Gavin. You are the enemy and they wish to paint you as a drug dealer, d'you see? It's how they work. For Chrissakes keep up, man, this has been planned for years, and it was your job to spot it. You failed.

If the alcohol industry had been clever enough to recognise the threat that anti-smoker invective was causing to their business, they would still be buffered against it right now. Instead of supporting the exposed 'unapproved' first line of defence against hordes of public health savages, they just allowed them to be sacrificed in naïve belief that the terminally puritan wouldn't then storm the ramparts - their weapons intact, sharpened even by success - and massacre whatever they found inside.

Alcohol Focus Scotland said its stand was done to fall in line with ASH, which bans the tobacco industry from its events.
That's a bit of a whopper, it has to be said. They've wanted to do so for years but have never had the confidence or the gall before. But emboldened by the stunning success - aided significantly by appeasement from the drinks and hospitality industries, ironically - of tobacco control, why not give it a go, eh?

In fact, the process of getting alcohol producers banned from government consultations is in full swing, as evidenced by this article last month.

Dr Evelyn Gillan, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, claimed yesterday that its efforts to combat cheap booze were derailed because the industry had learned from the big tobacco companies on how to influence decision-makers by minimising the dangers of the product.
There's that comparison to tobacco again.

“Everybody has the right to lobby for their interests but my concern is, and it’s something that the World Health Organisation has said really clearly, that the alcohol industry’s role should only be in terms of producing and distributing alcohol products. It should not be involved in directing Government alcohol policy and it should not be involved in health promotion or responsible drinking campaigns.

“They’re not educators, they’re not public health people. They produce a substance that is dangerous, that is not an ordinary commodity. It requires regulation.”
I do believe that is a call for censoring anyone who defends alcohol as a valid consumer product. Or, as Vivienne Nathanson of the BMA said just the other day.

"We have to start de-normalising alcohol - it is not like other types of food and drink."
Scary, huh?

Join CAMRA and the BBPA on the stupid step, WSTA. It won't be long until your industry is treated as a social illness and denied all contact with legislators, charities, and universities.

Reap the whirlwind, guys. Your chance to stem the tide of rampant health fascism deteriorated considerably about four years ago.

There is a solution, of course - gang up just as the righteous are doing. Not holding my breath, mind.


Cooking Lager said...

Arguably true, the path of alcohol demonization has all the patterns of what was done to the smokers. A feature of smoking, though, that that whilst the number of smokers has been in decline there is little partisanship among them. You don’t see a Marlboro smoker fighting a jihad against the Silk Cut smokers. Even as a united group they are losing.

The main consumer group of drinkers isn’t in any way a campaign for their own preferred tipple; it is a campaign against other tipples. They support minimum pricing because they think it will discourage home drinking of lagers & wines and push people into pubs. The care not for anyone other than their own group of beards. The pub industry sees the off trade as its main enemy and not the prohibitionists. It’s crazy.

Drinking is much easier to smash than smoking. It may be a more popular vice than smoking but divide and rule appears to be working brilliantly. CAMRA members may think they are safe in their responsible controlled pubs but have no idea what is coming when the day dawns that all they dislike has fallen and they are the last target of the prohibitionists.

Dick Puddlecote said...

That's a very good point you make about factions of drinkers, Cookie, I hadn't considered that.

On the plus side for the alcohol industry though - at least for now - is the fact that there isn't the same disdain for drinks producers as there is for tobacco companies. The righteous have done a job on tobacco by painting smokers as helpless addicts who only indulge because of irresistible marketing by big evil tobacco. So much so that many smokers themselves consider the tobacco industry as nasty bastards despite enjoying their products.

You don't get the same emnity towards alcohol producers amongst drinkers, especially with real ales where there is even a kind of reverence towards the brewers. But again, anti-alcohol is learning from anti-tobacco and are starting the long grind towards destroying the drinks industry's reputation - the articles I linked to in this piece both show signs of that.

Anonymous said...

But isn’t the fact that, as yet, not all drinkers are seen as “powerless addicts” simply because the anti-alcohol movement is only just starting out on its own “great crusade,” Dick? The first step, as illustrated by the anti-smoking movement, is to engrave in the public’s mind the health risks associated with the disapproved-of activity/substance – this is the stage that the anti-drinks movement are currently at. The few health stories that have come out so far won’t do it on their own, but there’s no doubt that these will increase in frequency and hysteria-level as time goes by and as more and more statistics are suitably massaged. After a time, the phrase “don’t you know that alcohol causes ….” will trip off the tongue as easily as now do the phrases that “smoking kills” or “smoking causes cancer.”

Once the fact that Alcohol is Bad For You – Period, is established as “fact” in the public’s mind, it’s then easy to move onto the next step of “people who still drink must be addicted,” because it’s an easy – if erroneous – connection to make that if people all “know” how “bad” alcohol is for them, but still drink, they can surely only be doing it because they are “hopeless addicts.”

Then comes Step 3 – Passive Drinking …….

I know that on occasions the anti-alcohol movement has tripped over itself a bit and some of the more ambitious amongst them have tried to jump onto steps 2 and 3 before completing step 1. But give them a chance – they are, after all, still in their infancy. Ultimately, they’ll find that only strict adherence and genuine commitment to the anti-smoking movement’s tried-and-tested methods will bring them the sustained and extensive success that they aspire to of an alcohol-free, or almost alcohol-free, society. Unless, that is, the drinks industry, alcohol retailers, and consumers themselves sit up, take notice and take suitably swift action to cut them down before they get too big to challenge.

The Travelling Toper said...

January 2011 Headline
Binge drinking costs NHS 25 millions annually
January 2012 Headline
98% of domestic violence linked to alcohol.
May 2012 Headline
Obesity explosion amongst alcohol users costs economy 250 millions annually
September 2012 Headline
Communion Wine linked to increase in hate crimes against muslims....

It's already too late. Don't forget that one of the most populus nations on earth managed to ban alcohol ninety years ago.

Anonymous said...

You never know, perhaps offering up their smoking customers was some kind of peace offering.

Alcohol 'as destructive as smoking' - 2005
"Three international experts said alcohol consumption was causally related to more than 60 different medical conditions including breast cancer and heart disease"

"During a conference on alcohol harm, Gilmore said: “It’s not as straightforward as the smoking issue. Smoking being bad for you was not even a discussion, alcohol is more complex.

“It’s not easy. We know we are up against probably the most powerful lobby there is – the drinks industry.”

Leeds health chief Tony Goodall, a delegate at the conference – Reducing the harm caused by alcohol: a co-ordinated European response – noted that the health lobby had a “magic bullet” on tobacco reform in the form of the passive smoking argument.

He questioned whether a similar argument could be put forward over “passive drinking” – or the knock-on social effects of booze."

Public 'must be protected from passive drinking' - 2009

PEOPLE should be protected from "passive drinking" in the same way they are protected from second-hand smoke, Britain's top doctor said today.

Sir Liam Donaldson, the Chief Medical Officer for England, called for society to recognise the consequences of one person's drinking on another's well-being - a phenomenon he labelled passive drinking."


Anonymous said...

Yes, it would be easy, even deliciously satisfying to indulge in a bit of schadenfreude here, but it's important to remember that this isn't really about smoking, or drinking. It's about freedom of action and personal responsibility. It's about the drip, drip of the curtailment of personal liberties under the aegis of health/ terrorism/security excuses. CAMRA and their ilk must be made aware of what they did by selling smokers down the river, and we, in our magnanimity must help them resist this, the next step towards the new puritanism, if for no other reason than that most of us don't wish to be marginalised (again) because we enjoy a drink. This march of the zealots must be halted before it gathers any more momentum. It must be stopped and it must be rolled back. If we don't resist, we are lost.

Anonymous said...

The trouble with drinkers and those in the drinks industry making a stand against restrictions on alcohol is that they start wrong-footed in any argument against the puritans, because so many of them either openly or tacitly agreed with the smoking ban for all the reasons presented for it. Thus any arguments countering the same or similar reasons for alcohol restrictions can be easily dismissed as hypocritical (because they are), simply by highlighting the fact that this time around they’re only complaining because it’s directed towards something that they enjoy doing.

Difficult though it may be for many ban-supporting (or unbothered) non-smoking drinkers to accept, the only really effective way of stopping the puritan steamroller’s onward progress is for them to protest – loudly and in large numbers – as non-smokers, now, for an amendment or a repeal of the smoking ban. This would serve the dual purpose of surprising the puritans (always a good tactic when dealing with a group of people who genuinely believe that they aren’t going to meet with any resistance) and also of forcing them into an about-turn to re-address a battle which they thought was already won, done and dusted. Which, of course, would necessarily re-direct their attention away from alcohol …..

In my experience, however, even those non-smoking drinkers who have some idea of what’s on the horizon and who would be prepared to fight for their own right to enjoy a beer or two can’t see the connection, and can see even less that in order to fight this battle successfully, they’ve got to not only resurrect the last one – but this time they’ve got to be visible, vocal and active on the side of the victims, rather than quietly letting the bullies win again.

Ian B said...

Nathanson's a regular rentaquote bad penny. Just out of interest, here she is three years ago shovelling coal into the Temperance boiler-

Of particular interest perhaps is around the 3 minute mark, where she basically claims, or gloats, take your pick, that Public Health lobbying gets the BMA in through the government door to lobby on behalf of doctors as a trade union for better pay and conditions. Which is an interesting admission.

At the end, she nicely dovetails into doing to alcohol what they'd done to tobacco, as per your article Dick. Three years ago.

It does amaze me really how naive and just plain dimwitted the drinkers have been over this. I must admit I can't really fathom a good explanation. My only guess is that the previous collapse of crude Prohibition in the USA led them to an enormous false sense of security- "they'll never try it again". It's like the drinkers just haven't realised that puritanism has evolved new strategies, the de-normalisation leading to something not being illegal, but incrasingly impossible to legally do anywhere. I fully expect myself that if this trend continues, tobacco itself will never be prohibited, but there will be no square inch of the Earth's surface where it is actually legal to smoke it. Which is a qutie different strategy to crude Prohibition.

Sam Duncan said...

“They’re not educators, they’re not public health people.”

No, they're people trying to make a living.

It's all dangerously close to saying they're not people at all, with all that talk of “the ... industry” and “it”. “It”s don't have that pesky right to free speech that actual flesh-and-blood people do. It's a favourite Leftist position: where you or I see people attempting to sell their wares and make a few quid, they see... I don't know. Evil giant robots or something.

And Ian's absolutely dead-on about the false sense of security stemming from the failure of the 1920s attempt at prohibition. I wouldn't rule it out though: it hasn't stopped them pretending that it works for “hard” drugs.

Cooking Lager said...

The tobacco industry being dominated by a few large companies can speak with a coherent voice, unlike the drinks industry, but big tobacco is no longer listened to because they spent decades lying about their product. When the link to cancer first became clear their own research confirmed it and they adopted a strategy of denial and lies. Now that has failed, they are up the creek. The drinks industry does admit its products can have negative effects and seeks to adopt a responsible drinking line to avoid regulation but appears to be committing commercial suicide. What other industry would hawk the line that its product is so dangerous that it ought to only be consumed under supervision in a responsible and controlled environment? And they actually think there is commercial advantage in theta approach.

Dr Evil said...

They produce something that is metabolisable and a food. Beer is a food stuff. Once upon a time there was large beer (about 9% ABV or stronger), beer arouind 6% and small beer (3% ish for children and the old). Water in those days could be a killer. Beer wasn't.
Spirits can't be classed as food per se but bottled entertainment.

Drinks Industry said...

Great Article! I'm going to tune in to this blog more often!

kif lesurfeur said...

DEFINITION PASSIVE DRINKING (VERSION 11.3 summarized by Georges Domert ,France): alcohol is 50% to 60% of crime and offences & 20% of homicides (by studying alcohol-related crimes, there are e.g. sexual assault); add to this 10000 deaths/year rescences by passive drinking : affecting the faetus of pregnant women (defects), road accidents , domestic violence, child & abused adolescance (beaten, school problems...), the workmen & finally fights in nightclubs, bars - pubs, holiday outdoor municipal (alcohol is associated with in 50% of the fights in general);Follow visible depression syndrome in number of cases of victims of passive alcohol, with cases very serious affected by the moral harassment (threats to break the figure, death threats, mockery-humour character reprehensible & aggressive-, insults, forced alcoholism as a pretext to the unjustified sale of narcotics & cannabis, reprimendes at work, hazing etc. characterized by of debility , madness or squizophrenie).Many authors (cancer trials) show the links between depression and an increase in the frequency of cancers and early mortality (cancer by passive Lac.); thus proven mortality can also result in suicides.The alcoholic désocialise teetotal entourage, the terrorizing and bungling his happiness. "."Binge drinking exhausts the means of our hospitals, generating chaos in our streets and spreading fear in our communities, supported the Prime Minister David Cameron to the United Kingdom.Finally, we must specify the noise pollution remarkable competing pub Irish but just as possible in the simple neighbourhood of neighborhood or residential.Same for odours, sometimes some alcoholics feel the "ammonia"; not to mention the vomissents & some degradation - breaks due to States of drunkenness.On the beach: the residents sleep.Plantar morning bathers hemorrhage due to revellers (videos United-States_BLOGONS sur la plage) sometimes bulky waste.ALCOHOL KILLS (approximately 200.000.000 deaths preventable/century) & specific labels indicating the dangers should be affixed on each bottle.Finally alcohol should be banned in public places except special derogation, with obligation to protect people sober, tolerant of alcohol in confined & separated places.