Thinking before drinking

Drinking alcohol has become a social norm in probably most countries, and has resulted in various outcomes – for example, crime, accidents, health problems etc; none of which are positive.

In the short span of 2.5 years of studying in Australia, I (and friends close to my heart) have experienced so many situations which resulted from drunk people just losing control – basically the doing of influence of excessive alcohol intake. Just to name a few, we’ve have had drunkards brandishing knives at us, friends getting punched or glassed randomly while walking home, passersby throwing bricks and stones at us, and one even getting raped and pregnant.

It seems all too familiar as there are constant reports of drunken acts all the time, and it also seems that familiarity has nullified the emotional aspect that was once attached to these outcomes. Is it really okay? Is it really acceptable?

The reality is that these things were serious and are serious, and have either an immediate effect or a long-term effect, or both – which is essentially an accumulated effect.

This brings us right back to the very beginning – why is alcohol being promoted so much when it has such devastating effects? Is it because of the huge profit that it brings in? The other question to ponder is – if alcohol is so popular, then what is it about alcohol marketing that is causing it to be so successfully promoted?

The goal of the article by Meier.P was to encourage a rethink of market research priorities in relation to alcohol marketing.

Many researchers and politicians concentrate on the potential harm to young people, and assume that alcohol marketing carries risks for children because they are perceived as cognitively incapable in distinguishing the advert portrayed from real-life experiences. It is true that promotion of alcohol to or in the presence of younger target audience will result in increasing the odds of them having a first trial, but this thinking perhaps need some reconsideration as most alcohol marketing are targeted at existing alcohol consumers. When an alcoholic product is being promoted to consumers, it is either presented to them during drinking experiences, or in between drinking experiences.

When alcohol is being marketed, it always almost seems to have an “optimistic frame”, pointing toward fun, fun and more fun. But with these advertisements, do they display any communication of the negative effects that may follow? If ghastly images of lung/throat cancer can be printed onto cigarette packs to warn consumers (visually) of the health impacts they may face, should alcohol bottles have printed warnings of excessive alcohol intake?

This whole alcohol topic is huge and can be and will be discussed so much more in the future, so it’s a good time to stop and think about it now.
Reference: Meier, P. 2011. Alcohol marketing research: the need for a new agenda. Addiction, 106, 466-471

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7 comments so far

  1. djasudasen on

    It is interesting that this post has gone up after this weekend’s scandal about the binge drinking and more that goes on at UWA’s Orientation Camps.

    http://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/a/-/newshome/13607036/uwa-hit-by-rape-claim-at-camp

    It is alleged that “Camp leaders stuck their fingers down the throats of younger students to make them vomit and drink more” and now the Vice Chancellor is threatening to cut Student Guild funding.

    Is that the right solution? What do you think is the appropriate punishment the Vice Chancellor should set?

    • keikok on

      What a interesting news you found, djasudasen!!
      When I got in university as a freshman, the 1st thing I learned from the leaders of clubs was “How to vomit and drink more”.
      I have seen so many people who got super drunk and lost their mind. Some people also started having sex in a club bars like the paper says.
      At the beginning of one semester, the Vice Chancellor cut the funding of clubs because one of the students got raped after drinking and our university was bashed by media.
      However, students never stop drinking and every Fridays are the day ambulance get very busy…

      I think drinking is fun unless you know the way to handle it.

      • Jessica Ho on

        Thanks for your comment Keiko!
        I agree that drinking becomes out of hand unless you know when to stop and how to handle it. No matter how I look at it, it seems that drinking is a norm or perhaps even a culture here, and that is very hard to change. It’s like trying to change an entire population’s habit. It’s been their lifestyle for years, do you think change will be able to occur?

      • keikok on

        Good question!
        About 10 years ago, in Japan, it was very common that older people forced younger people to drink alcohol and younger people HAD to drink to show their respect. This comes from our culture that we respect someone who is older than us. I am not saying I dislike our culture; it sometimes works well and sometimes not like in this case.
        Because we tend to show our respect and kind (and of course because we didn’t want to embrace ourselves), we couldn’t really say “no” to older if they ask. On the other hand, older people tend to eager to get the drink from youngers and happy to pay for a night. So, at the end of a night, many people got so drunk and unconscious….
        This culture has been changing since it is dangerous to our health even though changing our culture is such a tough job I think

    • Jessica Ho on

      Thanks for your comment, djasudasen!
      Yes, there has been a big hooha going on about the news of the UWA O’camps.

      I do think that cutting the Guild funding is a essential move, but that by itself cannot suffice as a solution. By cutting funds to the Guild, it shows that it is not just a small matter, and that action is being taken. Also, the funds come from the Student Services and Amenities Fee (SSAF), which is paid for by each student in UWA. No student would pay to get “tortured” or forced to do something against their will. By cutting funds to the Guild, it also shows that the university does not support what is happening.

      But like I mentioned, I do not think that depriving them of money is going to be a solution. I think that students (and student leaders alike), need to be fully and consciously aware of the risks of their actions and the dangers of alcoholism.

      If anything, I think that alcohol should be banned from camps as such, whether or not the under-age students are allowed to participate. The uni should suspend all guild rights and privileges until this has been thoroughly investigated, and leaders who are found or suspected for irresponsible acts should be immediately stripped of their positions.

      But that’s just my two-cents worth. I’m sure the uni has better plans (:

  2. zoesimmons on

    I think this was a really interesting blog post. The news recently has been focusing on these fresher camps, but we should keep in mind they are definitely framing this concept negatively to create the shock factor.

    Don’t get me wrong I think a lot of the events that occur during fresher camps are very wrong especially when the camps are aimed at underage freshers who have come straight out of school and have never experienced anything like them. It really isn’t an enjoyable introduction to the uni lifestyle.

    I have to agree when you said that changing attitudes towards alcohol involves changing the views of an entire population. When most people think of Australian lifestyle they think underage drinking, beer and barbeques. To change this attitude would be very difficult and I don’t think labels on bottles (like seen on cigarette packets) would be effective. The wouldn’t be very effective because many drinkers go out to get blind drunk and enjoy the popularity the next day as people let them know what they did the night before because they don’t remember.

    To change this attitude there needs to be a serious change in the thinking of these people. If drinking wasn’t ‘cool’ then I highly doubt the drinking culture that exists today would exist at all.

    • Jessica Ho on

      Thanks for your comment Zoe!
      That’s a very good point about them framing it negatively to create the shock factor. But perhaps if they didn’t or hadn’t done so, less attention will be brought to it and people would then deem it as “not news-worthy” or write it off as a small problem?

      I suppose drinking is considered “cool” in a lot of countries, not just Australia, and is probably a problem everywhere else too. (Just to clarify that it’s not just targeting or stereotyping Australia alone). In Singapore, where I come from, there is a lot of night life – drinking and clubbing and whats-nots. But the laws are also extremely strict and penalties are a lot heavier in some aspects. Having said that, it is a really small country so it might be easier to govern, whilst Australia is just magnificently huge, so campaigning something or trying to change attitudes and views on something would be so much harder, and would take so much longer.

      I think the hardest barrier to break is having people see WHY they should change their attitude towards something when they are perfectly comfortable with how things are – i.e. when they don’t see the need for change.


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