Fatal flaw in proposed liquor ad ban

“Battle looms over shock move to ban liquor ads” screams the headline in Business Day this morning.  But the big problem for a Department of Health trying to “totally prohibit the advertising and promotion of alcoholic products” is the internet.  Will the SA government build a firewall in the same way the Chinese government stops its citizens from searching for news of playboy princeling Bo GuaGua?  Or pass a law like the King of Swaziland who forbade his citizens from insulting him on their blogs and via Twitter?  The digital cat is out of the bag and liquor ad spend will migrate online faster that you can say Buitenverwachting.

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A good thing say I, for when a company like Distell, reputed to be the tenth largest liquor advertiser in the world, diverts the Great Gariep of its marketing budgets into cyberspace, the quality of the local digital offering can only improve.  They should start by buying every drinker an iPad.  Banning drink ads will be bad news of course for the J&B Met and probably the final nail in the coffin of dead-tree media.  Without whisky ads, many a glossy magazine will shrink to a couple of pages.  Classic Wine magazine will be fine, as they don’t run liquor ads anyway (canny old Dominic Ntsele), but what will poor Whisky magazine do, Fiona?

More strong arguments against controlling social behaviour were advanced by swimming pool artist David Hockney in the Mail on Sunday yesterday.  He was talking about smoking, but his trenchant comments apply equally well to the demon drink.  He makes some good points:

  • “It is a very natural thing to seek out pleasure, and this will never end with human beings, hence the popularity of mood-changing substances.”
  • “The Americans say no taxation without representation. Well, as a buyer of cigarettes [alcohol], I pay £7 for a packet and about £5.50 of that goes in tax. You take the money, Mr Lansley [Dr Motsoaledi], but do not think you can take our freedom to think. And be warned: it is a dangerous thing to try to diminish the right of expression.”
  • “You should remember also that you are not running a school, I am not a schoolboy and I prefer to prescribe for myself some medications.  I smoke [drink] for my mental health as I’m much too hyper normally. I thought I lived in a ‘free’ country but see now I have little say in how it is run, or even what debates there are.”

His painting sums it all up.  Perhaps William Kentridge can have Soho Eksteen drowning his sorrows with an Eben Sadie old vines wine.

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