If you watched the news last night, you would have seen a report about how the alcohol industry has been forced to add a pregnancy warning labels to inform the public about the potential dangers of drinking while pregnant. The majority of expectant mothers still drink alcohol in the early stages of pregnancy, while around 25% of mothers continue to drink throughout the entire pregnancy. The news report detailed the enormous costs involved in adding the labels to their bottles and cans with the price exceeding one-hundred-thousand dollars for small wineries who are also currently experiencing the added financial burdens associated with Covid-19.
At that point, I had to pause for some relatively minor deep reflection.
One-hundred-thousand dollars to add a label to a bottle of wine? That’s a lot of money. Some graphic design companies would only have to work once a year for those types of highly sought-after invoices.
To do five minutes of work? That’s not bad money.
Many Grade-6 children who are familiar with Canva could to this kind of redesign for free? Surely you don’t need an expert on Adobe Photoshop to change some font and re-arrange some pictures? Even if you did, the designer must have a fairly elaborate operation for the one-hundred-thousand dollar price tag.
This story was produced to inspire sympathy for the poor alcohol industry and how big brother regulatory bodies are trying to interfere with their self-governing, self-regulatory and self-standards and practices.
No fear, Federal ministers and entire States including Queensland, N.S.W. and South Australia tried their hardest to have the proposed changes amended in accordance to the wishes of the alcohol industry, but unfortunately, Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) is not as easily influenced as our trustworthy parliamentarians. The story also featured a Doctor who moonlights as a winemaker claiming that warnings don’t work. Thank-you Dr Plonk.
So why does the alcohol industry even have feel-good stories about how harshly they have been treated?
It’s not very complicated;
For many years the alcohol industry has enjoyed positive publicity about how the uptake of alcohol has been declining amongst young people, and more and more people are now drinking responsibly because of their initiatives through organisations they own and control like DrinkWise.
But a far more accurate interpretation of this scenario is that each year they slowly lose more business to illicit drug use and pharmaceuticals. The alcohol industry is acutely aware of this disruptive permutation.
It is robust competition between a taxable readily available drug like alcohol and illicit substances. Prices for illicit substances have dropped dramatically over the years and it is now possible to order illicit drugs online and have them delivered to your door faster than a pizza, sometimes with a pizza which has been recently uncovered in the Melbourne Hotel Quarantine inquest. This is a serious market realignment facing the alcohol industry. This is why alcohol industry loves negative news stories relating to illegal drug use, prescription medication overdoes and thoroughly enjoys general public anti-sentiment towards Melbourne’s safe injecting rooms.
In April last year over 150 residents of North Richmond gathered at the All Nations pub on Lennox Street Richmond opposite Melbourne’s newly open Safe Injecting facility to voice their concerns about the substantial rise in drug use in the area.
The perverse irony was not lost on me. If only the druggies would get on the booze and join us in the pub, we wouldn’t need a safe injecting room. These sentiments are echoed right across country Victoria where one-hundred-year-old pubs are closing down because of dwindling numbers, and more and more young people are either smoking marijuana, using prescription medication and much stronger illicit substances on a more regular basis. This is having a detrimental effect on the alcohol industries bottom line.
However, more young people are educated and aware of the dangers relating to all substances and substances misuse. Potentially they are making informed decisions. The alcohol industry is continually trying to find new and innovative ways to market directly to young people through social media, grassroots campaigns, sports, musical festivals and any community event which will take their money.
A few days ago the Melbourne City Council voted against the State Governments proposed site for a second Safe Injecting room in Melbourne. This is a big win for the alcohol industry. Any attempt to seemingly legitimise safer drug use even for societies most vulnerable populations groups is a form of stigma reduction and better access to drug and alcohol treatment services. Safe injecting rooms don’t just save lives they also educate the general public are about the plight of individuals with Substance Use Disorders.
Fear and ignorance are the most potent forms of propaganda. For example, if drug use is considered bad and evil, then drug users are just bad and evil people. (They need to get back on the booze)
The alcohol industry’s greatest fear is if one-day marijuana becomes fully de-criminalised for personal use, and each person is permitted to grow their own plants. In our two largest states, this would have dire consequences for the alcohol industry, potentially costing them billions of dollars annually. The alcohol industry likes Australians to believe that drinking alcohol is their right under the constitution. Not dissimilar to the way many Americans view their second amendment right to bear arms. After each mass shooting in the United States, The National Rifle Association suddenly becomes the loudest voice in America launching mass media campaigns re-enforcing the right to bear arms and any challenge to this is considered treasonous.
Currently, the alcohol industry is under fire. They are being forced to warn pregnant women of the potential dangers relating to drinking alcohol while pregnant. It doesn’t help that comedian Shaun Micallef is currently hosting a very personal three-part series on the A.B.C. about Australia’s relationship with alcohol title, ‘On The Sauce‘.
So it’s no coincidence we are going to be inundated with more and more positive spin about the positive aspects of the alcohol industry, along with the amazing employment numbers which will be under threat from warning pregnant mothers about Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Most people wrongly believe these health problems are mostly occurring in our First Nation Peoples population and are not a white persons or non-indigenous Australian persons problem for the most part. Well, the evidence is in, and this is clearly a very serious problem for anyone who decides to drink alcohol whilst pregnant.
If you have ever seen a young white man in his early twenties who clearly been a victim of FASDs you will witness a person who is shorter than average, has a lower nasal bridge and nose, small eye-opening, small midface, thinner upper lip and a smaller head. Someone who you can tell is older than they appear but is suffering from a developmental disorder. At first, you can almost be forgiven for thinking this person might have downs syndrome. However, the most notable difference for many people with Downs is that they have fairly defined and identifiable characteristics and people who have FASDs can have more variation in physical appearance. Downs Syndrome is the result of a Chronological abnormality whereas, FASDs and F.A.S. are completely preventable. FASDs and F.A.S. can cause a wide variety of physical, biological and neurological problems. Along with developmental disorders and behavioural disorders. The effects can range from mild to quiet serve.
But of course, the alcohol industry doesn’t want anyone to know that. It also doesn’t want people to know that alcohol is linked to strokes, cancers and indirectly to heart disease. One-third of Australians have been affected by alcohol-related violence, 18% who have been victims of alcohol-related violence and 25% of parents or guardians with a child under 18 report that their child had been harmed or put at risk of harm because of another person’s drinking. ADF
These are the less obvious statistics the alcohol industry doesn’t want you to read or hear about.
The alcohol industry is the most powerful cabal in Australia. Second only to the gaming industry and big pharma. They have numerous powerful lobby groups actively recruiting politicians, charities, doctors, organisations and celebrities to do their bidding. It can quite rightly be argued some of our sporting codes would not exist without the continued reliance on the alcohol industry and gaming industry. It is not a conspiracy. These are multi-national multi-billion-dollar organisations who not unnaturally are trying to make as much profit as possible. The good they also do cannot be ignored.
In the next few days, there will be an article in the newspaper and or on T.V. about how doctors say, ‘a glass of wine each day is good for you’. This will be shortly followed by several reports about how bonding over a beer with mates has helped people get through the isolation imposed by Covid-19. These are not coincidences. These are standard industry practices and responses to negative publicity in any large business.
When the alcohol industry is not busily trying to find new and innovative multi-layered marketing campaigns design to re-capture young people away from drugs and back to drinking, they are constantly forming new alliances with social media influencers, television celebrities and lawmakers. The industry benefits significantly from being its own regulator in marketing, manufacture and supply.
The Government is currently trying to ban nicotine vaping from Australia. It has personally pursued a non-evidence-based campaign to scare Australians into believing that vaping is akin to intravenous heroin use. Nicotine is readily available with gum, sprays and patches in all pharmacies, which makes them taxable like cigarettes. However, vaping evokes fear and ignorance. Images of these vast mists of water-filled air floating about the streets and young people becoming addicted to this behaviour horrifies and appals the average person. Whereas, in reality, if Minister Hunt would spend five minutes in a local vape shop, he would soon realise it is more like attending a meeting of cigarettes anonymous. Where a bunch of ex-smokers sit around and talk about how they can now start breathing again because they have stopped smoking. Dozens of research papers from the Kings College London has indicated vaping is around 95% to 99% safer than smoking cigarettes and is currently the most effective form of pharmacotherapy treating cigarette addiction. There is zero evidence that second-hand vape inhalation is dangerous to bystanders. It is, however, roughly ten to twenty times cheaper to vape than smoke cigarettes. Around 80% of people who suffer from mental illness smoke cigarettes.
Fear and ignorance are powerful tools. However, the Government can’t tax organised crime syndicates for supplying illicit substances. A cynical person might believe that vaping could have a detremental effect on the billions of dollars the Government receives from cigarette taxes. If they can’t tax it, it’s banned is the general rule. Of course you couldn’t possibly write anywhere that its actually safer for a pregnant woman to smoke cigarettes than drink alcohol, but it’s true.
The WHO can accurately calculate alcohol related harms within a community based on three clear measurable parameters; Price, accessibility and advertising.
It’s not only that alcohol accounts for most emergency ward episodes every Friday and Saturday night. Or, that alcohols relationship with pub fights, brawls, domestic violence, depression and an endless list of social and professional hazards cost the community billions of dollars and thousands lives annually. The alcohol industry regulates itself with the assistance of lawmakers.
Whenever there is a negative news story about the alcohol industry, just like the N.R.A. in America after a mass shooting, they always tend to blame mental illness, our alcohol industry has its own special reframing packages because thats the Australian way.