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Irish Prohibition and the Law of Unforeseen Consequences Part II

A crackdown on bingeing

The Government wants to crack down on binge drinking. Hurray! The Government is doing it by raising prices and banning many types of ads and marketing ploys. Boo! Let’s start by stating that binge and problem drinking affects ISME businesses through staff absenteeism and illness. It is not to be treated lightly. It is a serious problem. But what the Government is doing is pantomime farce without the happy ending.

Cheap booze aplenty

Raising the price of booze will incur the wrath of the Law of Unforeseen Consequences, about which we have written with reference to government initiatives in the past, hence the Part II. Here’s the upshot; raise prices and you push people to alternative products. It took us 2.5 seconds to Google cheap alcohol and came up with this, that delivers about 2.5 gallons (around twenty pints) of 7% proof alcohol for $2.50 (just over €2). As you can read from the article juice was turned to booze in just three days. Even young people can wait that long. Yes Ministers Varadkar, Reilly and whoever else is the brains behind this idea, the internet exists and young people use it (more about this later).

Drugs aplenty

The second part of our LoUC Part II is that if the price of alcohol goes up, demand for alternatives will surely rise. Therefore expect to see greater demand for an equally insidious scourge; it’s most likely that young people will turn to drugs. That’s a second fail as far as we are concerned. The booze cruises – popular during the high tax 1980’s – will surely make a come-back? Our first search on Asda in Northern Ireland brought us multi award winning wines at less than €7 a bottle, still below what the government here wants to charge as a minimum for a bottle of basic gut rot. Asda will also sell you 24 bottles of Bud for €16. We anticipate tailbacks of hired VW vans full of entrepreneurial students on the M1 to Newry.

The North Korean model

Then there are the ad restrictions. Though we would never give up hope at ISME, we assume that these new measures are aimed at the young rather than at the old, whose habits of a lifetime are probably already set in stone. Let us whisper this one to the State apparatchiks who thought up this New Prohibition.  Young people watch the internet. A lot (see above). And despite your wishes, the Internet is really only regulated in two countries; China and North Korea. But it won’t work. You are about to deal the Irish advertising and marketing industries a serious body blow. International digital ad agencies, who are free to run riot with their creativity, will take away another chunk of creative advertising revenues from Irish digital agencies, as it’ll be easier for international brewers to centralise their creatives.  The argument in favour of localisation will be lost and so will a large chunk of cash to the Irish agencies.

Has nobody tried education?

Health education has brought about a dramatic decrease in teenage pregnancies and had, for a period, changed behaviour that saw a big drop in HIV incidents. Though still too high, drink driving has fallen dramatically through a mix of education and enforcement. Education, done right, works.