That’s right, Big Brother. Alcoholic indulgence is still a prolific issue in England, and now British doctors are calling for the removal of alcoholic advertisements from television. Sadly, in all likelihood this would do little to ebb the flow of spirits down young people’s throats.
“The move was necessary to challenge Britain’s dangerous drinking culture,” Associated Press reports said Tuesday. In a recent report, The British Medical Association makes the assertion that “a rapid increase in alcohol consumption among young Britons in recent years was being underpinned by ‘clever alcohol advertising’,” as well as the fact that a prohibition on alcohol-related publicity was needed to help turn the situation around.
Although the idea here is only to prohibit the appearance of advertisements (for now), red flags shoot up any time I see the “P word”. Removal of a company’s right to promote their product is a step in the right direction toward ultimately turning Britain into a dry country, although to jump to such conclusions at present may be a bit far off base. Nonetheless, when looking back at the history of Prohibition of alcohol in the United States, we are given some indications of ways that, socially, problems could get far worse if England ever does decide to tighten it’s grip on alcohol consumption.
Mark Thornton, Libertarian scholar with the Cato Institute and Assistant Professor of Economics at Auburn University details some of Prohibition’s negative effects in his essay “Alcohol Prohibition was a Failure”:
Although consumption of alcohol fell at the beginning of Prohibition, it subsequently increased. Alcohol became more dangerous to consume; crime increased and became “organized”; the court and prison systems were stretched to the breaking point; and corruption of public officials was rampant. No measurable gains were made in productivity or reduced absenteeism. Prohibition removed a significant source of tax revenue and greatly increased government spending. It led many drinkers to switch to opium, marijuana, patent medicines, cocaine, and other dangerous substances that they would have been unlikely to encounter in the absence of Prohibition.
Quite simply, Prohibition doesn’t work; it merely opens avenues for users to seek a potentially stronger, more destructive substance to abuse in the absence of products like wine, spirits and beer. Along these same lines, though adopting a “out of site, out of mind” stance toward advertisements may look socially responsible, removing ads alone will likely do little to prevent existing drinkers from continuing to purchase their favorite brands, nor will it likely have any affect on reducing the amount of alcohol consumed. Nonetheless, the decision will be backed by The British Medical Association, which represents more than two-thirds of Britain’s practicing doctors. The majority of these cite the country’s drinking as “an increasingly deadly habit,” in addition to grouping Britain among the hardest-drinking countries in Europe, as stated in a report from last year. Hence, we can almost certainly expect to see a reduction in alcohol advertisements, regardless as to whether they will be effective or not. Only time will tell, perhaps.