Though my mom has inherited the alcohol-machine-trait from her father, I don't get a share of the pie. My sister does. And I, like my father, am a poor drinker. But unlike my father, I am allergic to it. Anything more than 20ml can trigger rashes and severe drowsiness.
Message 1: Consuming alcohol is normal, common, healthy, and very responsible.
Explanation: To bring this message home, alcohol advertisements nearly always associate alcohol consumption with health, sportsmanship, physical beauty, romanticism, having friends and leisure activities.
Message 2: The damage done by alcohol is caused by a small group of deviants who cannot handle alcohol.
Explanation: Indeed, the message of the industry is that ordinary citizens drink responsibly and that ‘bad’ citizens drink irresponsibly and are the cause of any and all problems associated with high alcohol consumption.
Message 3: Normal adult non-drinkers do not, in fact, exist.
Explanation: Only children under 16 years of age, pregnant women and motorists are recognized by the industry as non-drinkers.
My personal favorite, this one. The existence of non-drinkers is seen by the industry as a threat. Accordingly, they have subtly reinforced the message that moderate drinking is not only normal, but also good for you. Never mind that the real profits come from excessive drinking and pricing strategies that encourage it. Estimates vary, but recent studies at UCLA show that “the top 5% of drinkers account for 42%of the nation’s total alcohol consumption.” If 5% of all drinkers account for nearly half of total alcohol sales, it would be folly for the alcohol industry to get serious about encouraging moderation. It’s not too far off the mark to say that the alcohol industry’s quarterly statements hinge on the success they have in encouraging alcoholics to believe that everything’s okay, everybody drinks that way.
Message 4: Ignore the fact that alcohol is a harmful and addictive chemical substance (ethanol) for the body.
Explanation: The industry does not draw attention to the fact that alcohol (ethanol) is a detrimental, toxic, carcinogenic and addictive substance that is foreign to the body.
Message 5: Alcohol problems can only be solved when all parties work together.
Explanation: Good, effective policies to combat alcohol consumption would require a higher excise-duty, no marketing or sponsoring, an increase in the drinking age to 18, a prohibition of the illegitimate sale of alcohol, and an increase, through a campaign, in the public’s awareness of the damages that alcohol can cause.
Message 6: "Alcohol marketing is not harmful. It is simply intended to assist the consumer in selecting a certain product or brand."
Explanation: Meanwhile, research has indisputably demonstrated that alcohol advertisements are both attractive to young people and stimulate their drinking behavior. Yet the industry continues to flatly and publicly deny that advertising stimulates alcohol consumption.
Message 7: “Education about responsible use is the best method to protect society from alcohol problems.”
Explanation: Effective measures such as a higher alcohol excise-duty, establishing minimum prices, higher age limits and advertisement restrictions can reduce alcohol related harm and will therefore decrease the profits of the industry. The industry therefore does its best to persuade governments, politicians, and policy makers that the above mentioned measures would have no effect, are only symbolic in nature or are illegitimate.
Indeed, all of the messages, overtly or covertly, send the same signal:
You should drink more. It’s good for you.