Brexit and beer adverts

Posted on July 1, 2016

With the aftermath of the EU referendum vote having generated what appears to be a national brain seizure, you could be forgiven for missing the latest pearl from the puritans at Alcohol Concern, published earlier this week. 'Children see alcohol ads every 72 seconds during Euro 2016', claim the booze-phobics. The hard-hitting research involved, er, watching a few football matches and counting the number of times adverts for Carlsberg appeared.

Armed with this less-than-startling statistic, this drunk-on-doom-mongering mob proceed to make all sorts of wild claims. Tom Smith, director of campaigns at Alcohol Concern, said:

'The volume of alcohol marketing in sport, especially in football, which is popular with children and younger people, is enormous. We already know from our previous research that half of children associate leading beers with football. Alcohol marketing drives consumption, particularly in under-18s and sport should be something which inspires active participation and good health, not more drinking. We need to protect the younger generation, which is why the government needs to implement the phased removal of alcohol marketing from sport, as it has done with tobacco.'

Never mind that children aren't allowed to buy alcohol. Indeed, anyone who looks under 25 seems to need photo ID to get hold of a drink these days. What's really being said here is that the masses need to be protected from themselves.

What has all this to do with Brexit? The reaction from many quarters to the vote to leave the EU has been riddled with views that are at best patronising and at worst unadulterated elitism. Unable to imagine that the great unwashed might have weighed up the arguments and made a reasoned decision that should be respected, the assumption is that millions of people must be stupid, bigoted or both. The nation's simple folk were 'lied to' by arguments about NHS funding or immigration or something. The conclusion from these elitist snobs is that key decisions should not be left in the hands of the public.

Where could this idea have come from? In fact, it's been a bedrock of public-health campaigning and policy for decades. The merest sight of a lit cigarette in public must be stamped out (the term of choice is 'denormalised') lest our children, like helpless monkeys, immediately start lighting up themselves. Advertising of tobacco, alcohol, fast food and sugary drinks 'drives consumption', according to the prohibitionists. Even the branding on cigarette packets is irresistibly alluring. Only the well-educated, wise to the wily ways of corporate marketing, can resist such seduction. The rest of us must have our eyes shielded from these sirens, lest we our lured to our doom.

The reaction to the referendum result has brought this arrogant attitude to the front and centre of British political life - and a great opportunity to challenge such thinking. With the political class in shock over the result, now is the time for ordinary voters - consumers - to assert themselves, to make themselves heard on other issues, like outdoor smoking bans and sugar taxes. The British people have voted to take back control of our future from Brussels. We should no longer allow the minutiae of our daily lives to be dictated from Whitehall, either.