Friday, February 01, 2019

The best solution

It’s not unusual for a maker of alcoholic beverages to promote responsible drinking. It’s the ethical thing to do, after all. But most manufacturers don’t advertise abstention. This ad above is one of those that does, and it does it well.

The ad started running on New Zealand television several months ago (like all alcohol advertising, after 8:30pm), and I liked it when I first saw it. That was mostly because of the ending text: “When you drive, just one beer is too many. When you drive, never drink”. I endorse this message because it’s what I do. Without exception.

That began many years ago when Nigel and I had dinner at his mother’s house, which was about fifteen minutes from our house at that time, located in Paeroa. I drove from where I was working, in Thames, and Nigel drive from his work. His mum gave me a wine with dinner, using the teeny, tiny wine glasses she had at the time—maybe 80mL at the very most. But when I drove home, I felt impaired. I was actually way below the legal limit, of course, but it was unsettling enough that I vowed to never again have so much as a drop if I was driving. And since then, I never have. That turned out to be the first and last time I ever drove after drinking any alcohol at all.

So, I relate to this ad because it advocates what I do. To me, it doesn’t matter what the legal limit is, it’s about making a choice to avoid any chance of any impairment, no matter how slight the chance or impairment might be.

I can’t remember seeing a manufacturer of alcoholic beverages promoting abstention, even for the very specific reason this one does: In order to drive. There may have been some, of course, but I don’t recall seeing any. In New Zealand, we have public service ads that promote abstention for drivers, but those are government ads. Very different thing.

For many, many years people of various sorts have been campaigning to ban all alcohol advertising in New Zealand (tobacco advertising is already banned). It’s not just the wowsers and “morals” campaigners, but also people who in many ways know what they’re talking about and are generally credible when talking about harm reduction. However, there’s a part of me that still feels they’re being unnecessarily controlling and nanny-like. I’m an example of someone who can change their behaviour all on their own without government regulation. It’s difficult for me to believe that no one else is capable of doing that as a total ban seems to accept. Still, I might be convinced with enough credible evidence.

In the meantime, I’ll share ads like this when I think they’re good. I’m well aware that no matter my motive—promoting the message—I’m nevertheless promoting that beer brand (and the fact that I never mentioned the brand is irrelevant). And, the anti-ad campaigners think this sort of sharing ought to be banned. Maybe, maybe not, but I think the message is important, I like the way it was done, and I have no problem whatsoever both saying so and sharing the ad.

What others do or believe is up to them, of course. Normally, the ability to make such choices is one of the main characteristics of freedom, and that includes the freedom to never drink so much as a drop of alcohol when driving. People try to exert pressure to take away such freedoms. I don’t think they should be allowed to do so.

In my opinion, this is one those times I’ll do as a famous anti-drug campaigner used to put it and “just say no”.

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