TONY’S LAST WORD THE DEMON BOOZE
EVER SINCE TOBACCO ADVERTISING was banned, it was only a matter of time before the next advertising ban came into force. That’s now occurred – in the form of draft regulations banning liquor ads visible from public streets. The most obvious immediate pain will be felt by the outdoor advertising sector, which earned R113m from liquor ads this year. But it’s only about 1% of total outdoor adspend.
More important than that is whether it’s justified to impose another restriction on commercial free speech, a constitutionally protected right. Will this become a broader trend and where will it end?
Of course, no rights are absolute. Even constitutional rights can be overridden in the public interest. But one must ask again whether it’s right to ban the advertising of a product that’s legal to manufacture and drink.
Ad bans have reduced tobacco consumption in many countries but have also frozen brand market shares and handed cigarette manufacturers massive windfall profits. And the tobacco “dark market” is now graced by some of the most creative ideas ever devised in marketing. There have even been successful launches of new brands.
There are two main grounds for objecting to alcohol consumption: the danger to other road users from drunken drivers and the direct health risks to the user. On the first, one must ask whether that means banning fast cars as well; on the second, not all the health effects are bad. Limited alcohol consumption can be good for you. Alcohol is a different case from tobacco.