Shots shots shots shots shots shots EVERYBODY!! Who doesn’t love a good bit of alcohol? Unfortunately, the government has announced its plan to introduce warning labels on bottles of alcohol, similar to those found on cigarette packets, in a bid to warn people of the health implications that drinking could possibly cause. However, I think the government is doing more harm than good by even contemplating such a strategy.
It’s not as if anyone goes into drinking blindly. From a young age, we’re taught that drinking and smoking have serious consequences later in life and that if you drink too much alcohol in one go, you could potentially die. The onus is on us to make our own decision about how we socialise and the impact it may have on our health. We shouldn’t be living in a nanny state with a moral code that guilts us into not enjoying a little treat here and there.
Of course there are far wider implications on alcoholics. I partially believe that the government’s push for these health warnings is to dissuade people from trying alcohol because of the danger of alcoholism. Although the government has good intentions – or so it seems – people will always try things they are told they shouldn’t. The temptation of the forbidden or frowned upon is seductive and it’s one that very few can resist. Being made to feel guilty because of alcohol consumption is not what the government is for. That is entirely down to the person who has had a drink (or a few).
Another point to contemplate is that the majority of people go to clubs or bars to drink. The health warnings are only put on bottles and realistically, in a dark club, you are not going to be able to see the health warnings if you’re on the other side of the bar. Bartending is a stressful and fast-paced job and bartenders barely have the time to shout you the price of your drink – they are not going to give you a drink and tell you what the warning on the bottle says. So really, drinking is still going to happen and arguably, the worst kind of drinking is going to continue – binge drinking. Binge drinking has been proven to be dangerous and detrimental to one’s wellbeing but if drinkers are put off by warnings they can visibly see in the supermarket, surely they will consume more alcohol in clubs and bars where the reminder of the damage to their health is hidden.
For argument’s sake, let’s say that consumers do take note of the health warnings and suddenly, alcohol sales drop dramatically. Has the government thought about the economic consequences that a decrease in alcohol sales would have? Much like petrol, the majority of the money that we pay for alcohol is actually tax. We can speculate about what the government does with that tax money but inevitably, the country as a whole would suffer. Inflation would increase because taxes would have to be generated to cover the deficit caused by a lack of tax from alcohol sales.
Even if this silly notion is introduced, people will become apathetic towards the warnings. Last year, I had a rather stressful job and took up smoking for the first time in my life, despite having many lessons in secondary school about the dangers. The first packet I bought had an off-putting picture of someone with damaged gums as a result of smoking. I regarded it for all of two seconds, went outside and smoked three cigarettes consecutively. There is so much propaganda, on cigarette cartons, television and radio, that people have actually stopped caring. We are bombarded with information about how dangerous legal drugs such as tobacco and alcohol can be and we simply don’t care. Constant exposure to such dramatic, sometimes over-exaggerated, hype just generates apathy to the point that people stop being shocked and simply regard the warnings as another part of the packaging, not even acknowledging them.
I don’t doubt that the introduction of health warnings on alcohol packaging will come at a cost to the public and to the consumer. To modify the packaging, I wouldn’t be surprised if the public are somehow punished for it; most likely, the cost of alcohol will rise.
Personally, I feel that putting health warnings on alcohol will not achieve anything. Very few people will be deterred. Drinking is a social past-time of many and it brings people together. It is seen as a way to relax or to celebrate and generally gives people a bit of a buzz. Yes, there are health problems associated with drinking, but the decision should be left to the consumer, not the government. The government seems to think that it can try and dictate, guilt and be a moral beacon for the public. We should be left to make our own choices without aesthetically displeasing warnings tarnishing bottles of booze.