November 22, 1996

Advertising Booze

You can tell the ideals of a nation by its advertising.

Norman Douglas(1868-1952)

There is a big debate about whether to advertise hard liquor on radio and television.I can see one of those commercials now: A glamorous couple, usually one male and one female, sitting on the edge of a bed sipping an amber colored liquid and looking longingly at each other, while the announcer says, "To free you of those inconvenient inhibitions, drink Seagrams." At the end of the commercial, a song tells the viewer that "just one glass does the trick." In a later commercial, we see the back of a man standing in front of a urinal, while the announcer says, "No need to drink a pint; just a few ounces of Seagrams will do it."

I say "let 'em advertise!" Let's also advertise marijuana, cocaine, heroine, rifles, hand guns, dynamite and other explosives. Why not? We advertise beer, wine, prescription drugs, non-prescription drugs, pain killers of all kinds, laxatives, hemorrhoid treatments; in short, everything that isn't illegal.

I can see it now, a man standing with a smoking automatic pistol, blowing the smoke coming out of the barrel and saying, "He won't bother me ever again." This is followed by an announcer who says, "To get the job done right, use Remington." Come to think of it, I used to see those commercials in the movies when I was a kid. They called them "westerns." I think that they still have them on television.

In front of a bombed-out building, a smiling man says "For a perfect job, it's DuPont every time."

I remember the cigarette commercials of yesteryear. I remember one brand that was "so free and easy on the draw." I can see it now: a lovely woman lighting up an ultra thin, long cigarette while the announcer, in a deep bass voice says, "for a delightful evening, smoke Acapulco Gold; the smoke that relaxes."

How about "Don't wreck your nasal septum with cocaine; use crack," or "Use Mandarin Heroin. No need to risk AIDS; Mandarin comes in a pre-packaged sterile syringe, complete with tourniquet."

The hard liquor manufacturers say that they are losing customers, while the beer and wine manufacturers are gaining them. They are, of course, right. Some of it can be attributed to advertising, but I suspect that most of it is a function of non-commercial advertising that is practiced by individuals and groups that use the stuff. It is impossible to quell the evangelistic urge of drug users, regardless of the drug. In the roaring 20s it was gin and the dry martini. When I was growing up, beer was for the working man and a variety of hard liquors were for the intellectuals. What did Hemingway drink? How about W.C.Fields? Starting in the '60s it was pot for the hippies and cocaine for the wealthy. Interdiction made about as much of a dent in the drug trade as prohibition made in the booze trade.

I say again, let them advertise; let everyone advertise. Our government won't do anything about an evil unless the population is just about up in arms. And people don't consider something an evil unless it kills or cripples. Even then, it is only when it kills or cripples a close friend or relative. If your young adolescent dies while chugaluging a fifth of whiskey, you might be concerned.

I repeat, let them advertise anything. And if it kills people, just remember that those who die, being human beings, probably deserved it.

Next column

Return to Drugs Home Page

Return to Ira's Home Page