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Koos Kombuis

Do YOU fall over when you see an alcohol advert?

2012-05-17 07:00
If health minister Aaron Motsoaledi had his way, there would soon be serious restrictions on alcohol adverts. There might even be a total ban on advertising wine, beer, etc., on TV, in newspapers, or on billboards anywhere in the country.

I have mixed feelings about this (shaken, not stirred).

During the last few years we have gotten used to packets of cigarettes being sold with large warning signs on the outside. While these warning signs are really ugly from a marketing and aesthetic point of view – they are even more intrusive than pop-up ads on Facebook – they speak the truth.

If I were Aaron Motsoaledi, I'd go even further. I would not only paste warnings such as "cigarette smoke can harm your unborn baby" or "cigarette smoke can seriously damage your health", but also "the smoking of cigarettes is a pathetic oral fixation" and "cigarette smoke will make your teeth look worse than old piano keys".

No grey areas here; cigarette smoking is a plain bad, evil, disgusting and monumentally stupid habit.

As for alcohol advertising - jeez, I just don’t know!

I am sure that the government's drive to ban or restrict this lucrative practice is actually based on an honest desire to rectify a situation which is much worse than many of us realise.

Whether a ban on such adverts would really solve the problem of alcohol abuse, is of course another matter altogether. Alcoholism, doctors tell us, is a disease, not a crime. It seems to be a bit like going bald; you either get it or you don"t.

Is it really just a matter of genetics, though?

Genes vs geography

From my perspective, it seems likely; though I have been bald since the age of thirty, I have worked for years, without any success, and in spite of daily exercise, at becoming an alcoholic. To no avail! After more than thirty years of trying, I still haven't developed the habit of buying half-jacks in brown paper bags for breakfast. I still enjoy wine with my wife and friends, and the quantity I consume has actually declined over the years (inversely related to the quality)!

Then again, there are places in South Africa where alcohol is viewed almost exclusively as a social problem. Perhaps poverty and living conditions play a role.

There are places in South Africa where drinking doesn't mean you enjoy two glasses of chilled Chardonnay with your Sunday lunch.

There are places in South Africa where drinking, beating your wife, neglecting your kids, and crime are just about synonymous. That is terrible. That is truly sad. That is horrific. But, unfortunately, it seems to be true.

It is one of the symbols of our divided nation that something as commonplace and supposedly normal as having a simple alcoholic beverage can be viewed in such totally opposing ways.

So, in the end, I honestly don't know where I stand on this issue. Perhaps I don't know enough. The only thing I know is that I haven't fallen down yet. I'm still standing. By the grace of God, or fate, or just dumb luck, the lack or presence of alcohol advertising in my vicinity will do nothing to improve or worsen my drinking habits.

So, Mr Motsoaledi, we are 50/50 on this one. Cheers! publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

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