Friday, June 24, 2005

Alcohol Ads

So the gover has decided to ban alcohol ads, (I know I am like a week late on this story, but tough). I applaud the governments new found zeal to fight teenage drinking and alcoholism, many can attest to the fact that Kenya's youth are beginning to imbibe too much. You go out on any given day and you we see toddlers drinking their livers to submission, so the gover should be commended for trying to tackle this issue.

If one ever saw the ads that were used to introduce REDDS premium cold and PILI ICE, one would agree with those who say that ads are targeted to kids. Promises of "Virtually no after breath" can not have been directed at anyone else but high school kids and their ilk, your average legal drinker will care more about taste etc.. and not after breath. This is likely to attract the young, who want to get an upper hand in the quest to avoid detection by parents, teachers etc. On this I speak of from experience.

I remember when REDDS was introduced, I was a young strapping fellow in from two and me and my pals loved to imbibe every now and again (every WED and Friday), so when a beer (if u can classify REDDS as that) that promised no - the 'virtually" part escaped us - after breath was introduced, we were besides ourselves, we now had a way to ensure that our teachers would not know if we came back after lunch having drunk a couple, and neither would our folks know.

One particular example of our new found temerity was when we went to Uchumi in Sarit Center to buy close to 100 cans of REDDS for a trip to Naivasha. We simply walzted in to the store wearing our uniforms (minus our book emblazoned ties hint. hint), took a cart headed to the alcohol section, packed the cart with booze, waltzed back to the counter and paid for the goods. No questions asked, except for a rhetorical : "you guys are planning to have a good weekend?" from a fellow I assume was the manager.

I tell of this incident to illustrate two points. One, alcohol adverts do entice young fellows (and gals) to imbibe. But a more important and crucial point, is the great ease with which kids can buy alcohol in Kenya. There is this oft said joke, one needs only be taller than the counter in order to buy booze in Kenya. The government should be focusing on the latter issue if it is serious about tackling underage drinking. Banning of Ads is a simple cosmetic solution that is unlikely to significantly tackle the problem, if it is still easy to buy suds.

However, this is not to say that some regulation of ads is not need, there should be age warnings (as Smirnoff does), ads should be limited to certain hours of the day/night; be limited in number and content scrutinized for content that may be deemed to suggestive to kids. Lakini banning is not the solution, the gover should not block a legitimate avenue used by producers to attract customers.

Want to fight teenage drinking, get tough on the age limit.