Monday, November 16, 2009

Battling the drink

So it looks like the state Environment and Public Health Ministry is considering conducting a campaign to curb alcoholism in Sarawak – and it could be similar to the way Malaysia’s anti-smoking campaigns have been done in the past.

In August, I blogged about the state of Indonesia’s cigarette advertising scene which resulted in a good conversation going about our government’s latest Tak Nak anti-smoking campaign.

Similarly with the issue of smoking numbers, the government is not going to have much success tackling the problem of alcoholism if all they do is fund a cleverly crafted communications campaign. The grassroots support is vital and according to the Star there are currently no specific institutions for the rehabilitation of alcoholics in Sarawak yet.

Sarawak recorded 87 admissions for alcohol-related illnesses last year and 27 from January to June this year – although reportedly there is currently no specific institution for the rehabilitation of alcoholics in Sarawak and patients are advised to consult psychiatrists at various government hospitals.

Malaysia is a very different alcohol advertising market compared to most of its neighbours in Asia Pacific. Alcohol brands here are not free to market themselves as freely as they would like but I don’t buy for a second that a country with stricter rules on alcohol marketing equals less alcohol abuse.

There’s literature out there which supports the idea of a relationship between alcohol advertising and consumption – I just haven’t seen any studies which can significantly prove this.

Russian president Dmitry Medvedev recently ordered tough new restrictions to try to curb alcoholism in Russia which he described as a national disaster.

He wants to allow local authorities to ban the sale of alcohol in specific locations at specific times of the day and have jail time replace fines for anyone who sells spirits or beers to people under the age of 18. He also wants to ban liquor advertising but I honestly think the first two regulations are what are going to help curb the problem in Russia – and not the lack of alcohol ads.

In fact, if the Malaysian government wants to get really serious about the problem of alcoholism in Sarawak, maybe they shouldn’t make an anti-drinking ad. I can’t remember the last good alcoholism ad I’ve seen – they usually come and go so quickly it’s hard to tell.

My colleague Ben Burrowes did point me to a movement in New Zealand which on the surface looks pretty promising. I’ve put a poster execution from one of their campaigns in this post.

When’s the last time you saw a good anti-alcohol ad? There’s been a few good anti-drink driving ones from Australia while I was studying there and who (SNL fans) can forget this Dennis Leary spot from years ago.

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