This week saw Portman publish their results into another alcohol marketing code violation. Nothing new there accept for a small sense of irony perhaps? You see the complaint was all about making alcohol ‘more attractive’ for young people (see here), which is a clear breach of the trade body code;
Code of Practice on the Naming, Packaging and Promotion of Alcoholic Drinks – 3.2 (h): A drink, its packaging and any promotional material or activity should not in any direct or indirect way: have a particular appeal to under-18s (in the case of sponsorship, those under 18 years of age should not comprise more than 25% of the participants, audience or spectators). The Portman Group
In case you’re unaware, the Portman Group operates a Code of Practice of the Naming, Packaging and Promotion of Alcoholic Drinks to ensure that alcohol is marketed responsibly and only at adults.
Portman is the self-styled “social responsibility body” for drinking. They attract (mostly unwarranted) criticism from the addiction recovery community. This tendency for strong Puritan condemnation aimed in their direction, mostly from those advocating total abstinence as the only real recovery process; to cure this evil illness caused by demon drink. But Thomas Watson an English Puritan preacher said… “Satan loves to fish in the troubled waters of a discontented heart”, which could equally apply to either side of the debate.
This angst around Portman’s “keeping it responsible” comes from the fact that, they’re funded by companies who represent every commercial sector of the alcoholic drinks production and distribution industry. Collectively that group accounts for more than half the UK alcohol market. I can agree with the irony claims but the ‘conflict of interests’ debate is becoming a little puerile. Especially whilst Portman continue to advocate ‘personal responsibility’ and publish appropriate and factually correct information.
“Between 2011 and 2017, the numbers drinking more than 14 units a week fell from 34 per cent to 28 per cent of men, and from 18 per cent to 14 per cent of women.”
Once again, this piece shows how people in England continue to drink responsibly. https://t.co/j3MPahByJD
— Portman Group (@PortmanGroup) February 8, 2019
If I’d known there was someone I could talk to, it would have helped me understand and cope with my dad’s drinking. I want today’s kids and young people to know they are not alone… (Calum Best)
Rightly or wrongly, the production and distribution of alcohol in the UK is not (currently) illegal, although some would suggest it should be. The sale and consumption of alcohol in the UK is (mostly) regulated, although some would argue not as stringently as it could / should be. How much someone chooses to consume is a personal choice, that would be almost possible to legislate around.
Education that leads to informed choice is the way forward. Reduced consumption and reductions in the social fallout from excessive use will not come from prohibition!
My thoughts are, and mostly always have been; ‘educating’ people to help them make better choices (for them) has to be a good thing, it doesn’t really matter who pays the piper. The ‘ethics’ of Portman will probably always be questioned, because of the depth of their apparent hypocrisy… but, he who ‘pays the piper’ doesn’t always have the ability to ‘call the tunes’.
Alcohol producers and distributors may be funding Portman however; the ‘benefactors’ have little control (if any) over Portman’s mostly useful work. Before questioning the actions and ethics of others, it’s usually best to step back and think a little about your own, certainly prior to taking up a position on the moral high-ground… in the cold light of the following days it might be you who appears to be purely self-serving and hypocritical.