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Does Raising the Price of Alcohol Really Reduce its Take up?

At the moment everyone including the medical profession in the UK is shouting that you need to raise the price of alcohol to put young people off it. Really?! Targeting just the supply side is only one half; the other half is trying to stem the demand. The most effective way to lower the demand is to remove or restrict the advertising.

You only have to look at the mass marketing of alcohol in the UK and rest of the world to see that there is a common theme. There’s a customer born every minute, so they say and the advertising industry ensures that its glossy ads bring these new customers to their clients alcoholic drinks range, not their competitors. The alcohol ad industry is fierce, and competition to produce interesting and memorable ads is huge.

Carlsberg is well known for producing sophisticated TV ads that suggest if you drink Carlsberg; you’re probably drinking the best ‘Beer in the World’ and that you’re also sophisticated. Recently Carlsberg’s agencies have produced ads suggesting that if Carlsberg did night clubs, they’d be ultra cool, etc. And so the list goes on. Heineken is close behind with an admittedly very funny ad about a walk in fridge.

If you imagine that the product being sold was a cigarette, you’d be amazed that it was allowed. So why is a drug as equally harmful as tobacco, allowed to be advertised? Tobacco advertising has been banned throughout the US and Europe for a few years now, is it only banned because it pollutes the atmosphere of those near to smokers? What about the harmful effects of drinkers and the people who live or work around them? Just because there is no direct connection doesn’t lessen its impact.

At the moment the UK Government seems to think that the answer to reducing alcohol intake is to raise the prices of alcohol. Is raising the price really going to stop people from drinking? And is this the only way to reduce alcohol consumption particularly in young people?

Young people are so impressionable, and the thing that is going to make the most impression on them is not the price they have to pay, but taking away the images they are trying to achieve might achieve the same result without unnecessarily increasing the cost for that group of people who are responsible drinkers.

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