Monday, March 1, 2010

Driving sideways

To hear fresh debate about how much alcohol people ought
to be allowed to drink before they drive is to be reminded
of just how tight a grip the liquor industry has on the levers
of power in New Zealand. Thanks to its lobbyists, and to its
ever-obliging lackey the Alcohol Advisory Council, it has
never let policy-makers stray too far towards the abhorrent
and unprofitable idea that one should never drink before
driving. Thus we can all continue to dance, however shakily,
on the head of a pin discussing how much is all right, the
unchallenged and commercially useful assumption being
that some is. Not none. Some.

Sensible enough, you think? Moderation in all things? One
wouldn't want to be too wowserish? Yet 60 years ago you
could come across a public-service advertisement like this
one in the Listener (7 October 1949), which compared with
today's advertising directed at adult drinkers seems scarily
straightforward and hard-hitting:


All he had were two 'quick ones' before he left for the
party. He felt fine. What if they were running late? He
could make that up easily. But he didn't. He ended up
in hospital. His wife was killed. Those two drinks had
made him feel on top of everything, but they had made
him slower—too slow—in an emergency. If YOU are
driving, don't touch alcohol.

(Original caps and italics.)

But wait, you may say: surely the message to young people
these days is just as clear: 'If you drink and drive, you're a
bloody idiot' etc—complete with grisly depictions of crashes
and injuries in TV ads. And now there's talk of making it
illegal for anyone under 20 to drink and drive. Well, fine.
But I'll believe in the sincerity of all that the day Tui, DB,
Speights and the rest of them no longer advertise on TV and
in the cinema. Because, as long as they do, with every ad
about the great things that alcohol can do for your social life
and your self-esteem, they effectively undo whatever good is
done by the don't-drink-and-drive ones. If you produce
alcohol and promote it, you're a bloody idiot.

1 comment:

Mrs Hawes said...

I've just discovered your Blog, Denis, and this comment may never be seen it is so late, but there is no doubt in my mind that there should be absolutely no advertising for alcohol, just as there is none for tobacco. What need there is to advertise an addictive lethal substance is beyond me. We live in a very warped society.