Ads in the Cups - How Much is Too Much?

Novinite Insider » EDITORIAL | May 4, 2004, Tuesday // 00:00| Views: | Comments: 0
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Ads in the Cups - How Much is Too Much? Advertisements of hard liquor may soon be banned under the recently proposed amendments to the Health Act. Movers claim the step comes in a bid to make Bulgarians healthier. Photo by Yuliana Nikolova (novinite.com)

By Milena Hristova

A shopska salad with a glass of rakiya has long been the epitome of Bulgarian hospitality, while its touted role of a flawless trouble-shooter - a standing joke among Bulgarians themselves.

The recently proposed amendments to the Health Act, which ban direct advertisements of hard liquor, came, movers claim, in a bid to curb consumption and make Bulgarians healthier.

The implied suggestion of a binge drinking culture, creeping over Bulgarians, faced a wave of protests on behalf of producers, advertising agencies and media. Bulgaria's forthcoming accession to the European Union - pinned for 2007 - fuelled it and gave rise to a number of jokes, picturing politicians raising the toasts after 10 pm. Only in this way could they come within the fixed deadline for not airing advertisements of alcohol and not break the law. Journalists assumed the role of "copywriters" and presented an edited description of the popular local rakiya - а drink of well fermented, stewed plums, sold in glass narrow-necked bottles.

Experts comment that each advertising campaign only restructures the market shares among different brands, but does not affect overall alcohol consumption. Some even claim that huge advertising has slowed down alcohol consumption over the past years.

Data bears out the theory.

Last year each Bulgarian have downed 21,4 litres of alcoholic drinks (rakiya, vodka, whisky, beer and wine), against 26,6 litres in 1995. Home-made alcohol accounts for almost half of the alcohol Bulgarians drink, a local brand that - understandably - gets no advertising.

Still common scenes of teens hitting the bottle, suffering binge misadventures on holidays or overindulging on weekend nights can hardly leave anyone indifferent.

Will their life continue to revolve around alcohol once they are out in the real world?

Being a little tipsy now and then can make for a good time, but you don't need an expert to tell you that drinking to the point of intoxication is bad. Alcohol is a drug and advertisements provide information about it, making it legal. Hiding information about it would only make the drug illegal. The bad taste of most locally produced advertisements of alcohol is a different matter and might call for another article on the issue.

No is advocating the young people to go cold turkey. But it might be a good idea to launch educational campaigns, introduce tobacco-style health warnings on all alcohol products or harsh measures against traders who sell alcohol to minors, tax reliefs for the owners of fitness clubs and swimming pools, which will ease the access of young people.

Just a few tips at hand to control the intake without cutting people off altogether. Or cutting advertisements off altogether.
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