Chris Moerdyk

Moral guardians hoodwinked us

2013-04-29 07:55

Chris Moerdyk

About a decade and a half ago government banned all tobacco advertising and supported by a phalanx of self-appointed moral guardians of our nation, told us that it was a proven fact that advertising was a major culprit in getting people to start smoking.

Now we find out that they were talking rubbish.
All of them. Government, the anti-tobacco lobbyists and those self-appointed nannies who believe that they are responsible for the health and welfare of all of our citizens.

A few weeks ago, Cancer Research UK released information showing that the number of youngsters who had started smoking in the UK has risen from 170 000 in 2010 to 235 000 in 2011. Tobacco advertising is banned in the UK.

And last week the South African Medical Research Council released data showing that of 2000 grade 8, 9 and 10 pupils from 227 schools in the Western Cape, 40% smoked tobacco products, 20% of those on a daily basis.

Try to save face

Now, both in the UK and in South Africa the vast majority of those pupils and youngsters weren't even born when tobacco advertising was outlawed.

Of course, the politicians and nannies will probably desperately try to save face by arguing that if tobacco advertising was still allowed in the UK and South Africa, those figures would be a lot worse.

Except for one thing. They will be very hard pressed to find worse figures in countries where tobacco advertising is still allowed.

They will also probably keep pulling out tired, skewed research showing the effect of advertising on tobacco and alcohol abuse. Research that was mostly commissioned and paid for by people who wanted advertising banned.

Frankly, I am pretty sure government knows full well that banning advertising is not going to solve the substance abuse problem. They know that the drug scourge on the Cape Flats is not in the least exacerbated by advertising because there never has been any advertising for tik or "home brews".

Politicians know that banning advertising is a safe thing to do because the ad industry in this country has done nothing to promote itself. Banning ads make governments look good. Makes them look like they are doing something. And I suppose that's what we expect from them. If government was really serious about tobacco and liquor they would ban both outright. But, they won't because there is too much money involved.

But, it is the nannies, the self-appointed moral guardians of our nation who glibly beat the anti-advertising drum when it comes to smoking and alcohol, without realising that their self-righteous huffing and puffing is actually destroying lives not saving them.

Banning ads not effective

A lot of people lost their jobs when tobacco advertising was banned. Now thousands more will lose their jobs if alcohol ads are banned.

Now, I am certainly no apologist for the advertising industry. Whether the ad industry sinks or swims doesn't actually affect me one bit.

What makes me mad is that now, almost 20 years later, there is, right under our noses, proof that banning tobacco advertising has done absolutely nothing to stop youngsters from taking up the vice.

It will be the same with banning alcohol advertising.

In 20 years someone else will write an article like this pointing out that when government and the nanny brigade kept insisting, as they are doing now, that banning liquor ads would solve the problem, it will be found that these bans had absolutely no effect whatsoever except to put about 40 000 people below the breadline as their income earners lose their jobs.

None of the nannies has ever said a word about those countries that tried banning ads and found that it didn't help one little bit. Selective morality at its absolute worst.

Farcical behaviour

They all have their own agendas. From vote catching to making money or just making themselves look important and relevant.

It is sad that human lives can be destroyed by such self-centred and farcical behaviour.

If you don't believe me, then try asking people you meet, young and old, how they came to start drinking or smoking.

You will find that in just about every single case you will be told that it was "because my friends smoked and drank" or "because my parents smoked and drank".

You won't, I guarantee, find many, if any, who will say, "Oh, I saw a great ad on TV when I was a kid and went out and bought myself a beer and a packet of cigarettes."

Try it. You'll see.

- Follow Chris on Twitter.

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