90% lies

“Booze is 10% ethanol and 90% marketing.” I wish I’d thought of that but it was actually Arwa Mahdawi from the Guardian.

It’s a great line but what does it actually mean? Let’s break it down, ethanol is pretty toxic. Less than an egg cup of pure ethanol would kill me. If you weigh more than me and drink more than me then you might be able to manage the whole egg cup but that’s still on the toxic end of things.

10% ethanol means 10% poison.

What about marketing then? While I don’t wish to insult the entire profession, in this context marketing means corporate lying. It’s one thing to paint your product in a good light but it’s quite another to make claims which you know aren’t true.

The idea that a martini will make you James Bond isn’t true. The idea that Heineken will make you good at rugby isn’t true. The idea that Guinness is good for you isn’t true. Even my six year-old daughter knows that if you say things that aren’t true then you are lying.

I imagine some of my friends in the marketing business are poised to type something like “branding all alcohol marketing as a lie is a bit strong”.

But before you comment, consider this, the adverts project an image of strength, power and confidence. The reality is that alcohol is the number one risk factor for disease in people aged between 15 – 49. How can you reconcile power and death? Strength and disease? Confidence and misery?

And that’s not some statistic I’ve pulled off Wikipedia, that’s research published in The Lancet, covering 195 countries and territories, encompassing over 26 years of data.

At the very minimum alcohol advertising is willfully misleading us. And if a politician did that, we’d call them a liar.

Alcohol: 10% poison, 90% lies.

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