Warning! Another attack on pleasure

Posted on December 22, 2015

For years now, campaign groups like Forest, the parent organisation of Action on Consumer Choice, have argued that the illiberal, pleasure-wrecking policies targeted at smokers would soon be directed at other groups deemed to be 'at-risk' by public-health campaigners. 'Nonsense', was the reply. 'Smoking is a special case. There is no "slippery slope".' Recent reports from Canada suggest that those who enjoy a drink are very much in the firing line, too.

Tobacco-control campaigners have succeeded in persuading governments to introduce graphic health warnings on cigarette packets, with disgusting images of disease displayed on every packet. Australia has gone even further and banned any branding on cigarette packets, so that there is nothing to soften the impact of such imagery. (The UK and France have already decided to follow suit.) Such images have had little or no impact on the 'hard core' of smokers who have decided to raise a collective single digit to the efforts of government to interfere with their pleasurable habit.

But that hasn't stopped researchers in Canada studying the impact of graphic warnings on alcohol. According to a report in Canada's National Post newspaper, researchers in Halifax, Nova Scotia claim that 'people’s perceptions of prominent wine, beer and liquor brands diminished significantly when the containers were adorned with an alert about liver cancer and a photo of a diseased organ'. That hardly seems the most startling conclusion ever made. More worrying is that the province of Ontario has already done a similar but larger study, suggesting serious consideration is being given to bringing in such a measure.

Such an idea is not only patronising but actually strikes at the heart of drinking as a pleasure. At least smokers can take out a cigarette, glance at the health warning, then return the offensive package to their pockets. Most of us leave the bottle on the table when we've poured a glass of wine, for example. The sight of a nice label adds to the experience. Adding a picture of a diseased liver - something highly unlikely to happen to the vast majority of drinkers - makes that experience significantly less pleasant. But public-health fanatics have little compunction in wrecking these little joys in the name of protecting us from ourselves.

Such misguided policies are at the heart of why Action on Consumer Choice is necessary. There are no 'special cases'. Prohibitionists have the ear of government right now and will suck the pleasure out of smoking, drinking, vaping and eating - using the full force of the law - if allowed to do so. In 2016, we need to step up the fight for personal freedom.