yesterday, in the Post Office queue, a far more organised (read: crazed) mother than I was posting Advent calendars to her adult offspring. in my perfectionist past I have gone through several incarnations of advent calendar for my children, not satisfied unless it was the Fairtraidiest of options… this year it’s going to be a last minute trip to the local artisan (read: overpriced for lastminutepanickers) chocolate heaven to pick up the last three of whatever they have without a Disney logo 🙂

however popping up on all social media over the last few days have been a variety of ‘adult’ Advent calendars, featuring a double measure of gin, whisky, or beer behind every little door. no pictures in case anyone finds them triggery – but there’s a link to the ‘Ginvent’ version here if you’re interested.

I’m horrified, saddened, and not at all surprised by this. it is completely of a piece with every other effort of the alcohol industry to cross-sell into different markets as much alcohol as they can.

and it is really tempting to demonise the alcohol industry when we see things like this. I was thinking yesterday how I would feel about them if it were a child of mine who had become dependent, rather than myself. how I would then feel about the relentless advertising and promotion of an addictive substance, held in check only marginally by lack-lustre legislation?

it depends what role you think industry has in our society. where you think the responsibility lies to protect an individual from harm.

does it lie with the individual? with the individual’s parents? with our elected representatives? with the governmental organisations (education? health?) run by our elected representatives? with the charitable organisations, funded by private sources, who are desperately trying to change the climate around alcohol? or – with the industry making a profit from the addictive substance?

at the moment the industry places the onus completely upon the individual.

would you like to know what Diageo,  a ‘global leader in beverage alcohol with an outstanding collection of brands across spirits, beer and wine categories. These brands include Johnnie Walker, Crown Royal, JεB, Buchanan’s, Windsor and Bushmills whiskies, Smirnoff, Cîroc and Ketel One vodkas, Captain Morgan, Baileys, Don Julio, Tanqueray and Guinness says about people who have become dependent upon alcohol? ie – you and me?

this is an extract from their website page, ‘Alcohol in Society‘. emphasis added by me:

‘Different cultures have a range of views on the role of alcohol, and some people make a choice not to drink alcohol at all. We recognise and respect this choice. We also acknowledge that some people should not drink as a matter of their own safety and wellbeing. This includes children and young people under the legal purchasing age, pregnant women, people who cannot control their drinking, or those who have a specific medical condition where drinking is not advisable.

Some people drink too much and cause harm to themselves and others. The social consequences of alcohol misuse are of course a matter of significant concern to a responsible company like ours. They damage our reputation, the reputation of our brands, our licence to operate, and, more importantly, our communities and our consumers. For these reasons we want to play an active part in tackling alcohol misuse. It is the right thing to do.’

This is coming from an industry who knows that 80% of its sales are made to the 20% of its consumers who are drinking at harmful levels!

the sheer level of vilification in these paragraphs completely astonishes me. that the drinks industry takes it upon themselves to make pariahs of the people who are providing their profits would be hilarious if their product weren’t devastating people’s lives across the world, every day.

the alcohol industry and the Emperor’s New Clothes has gone on for long enough. this Advent, this Christmas – let’s be the little boy pointing out what no-one else dares to…