Sunday, October 3, 2010

Absolut (sic) Double Standards!!

I laughed the other day when I saw the Harvard subway station (T station) in Cambridge covered with big Absolut vodka posters. From time to time the Boston subway strikes a deal with a company to put its posters all over some given T station – and not only in the dedicated spaces. It is a little bit of an overkill from a subway rider’s standpoint but at least you can’t miss these ads…

Anyway, I was laughing when I saw Absolut going bezerk MBTA (Boston transit system) style because it made me think about how differently alcohol and cigarettes are treated in the US. Tobacco might well be another word for devil in this country…

Pointing to the addictive power of tobacco, its role in causing lung cancer and respiratory disease and other ailments such as heart disease is certainly the right thing to do. We don’t want our kids to start smoking, nor our grandmothers to smoke, nor our work colleagues, nor anyone around us for that matter because cigarettes stink. Alright…

But what about alcohol? How is alcohol less addictive than tobacco or less damaging to people’s health – to name a few possible repercussions, liver cancer, high cholesterol and heart condition due to alcohol high sugar content, and any dangerous situation that drunk folks can put themselves into?

I just don’t get it. Now, my point is not to discuss whether or not those among us who smoke or drink should be left alone as to how they choose to conduct their lives, what constitutes an addiction, or how much drinking and smoking cost to society from a public health standpoint.

What boggles my mind is just how smoking has been vilified whereas drinking is very accepted in this country’s culture. When I walk around in some Boston neighborhoods (you know who you are, Southie friends) and I see all those folks whose faces are totally ravaged by alcohol (and probably smoking too), I don’t understand how we as a society feel that it is ok. I live next door to a bar – a lot of folks are drunk when they leave. You find people going into bars and taverns at all times of day in certain neighborhoods. And this is more acceptable than people smoking a pack a day? I don’t see how.

In contrast, Europe has been as aggressive in its prohibition of alcohol advertising as it has been with smoking. Western European governments appear to consider that both drinking and smoking can have negative public health repercussions and thus, neither is encouraged – on the contrary high taxes on those products and limited advertising intend to curb consumption.

Why such a different outlook on drinking vs. smoking in the US? I don’t know... Enjoy the good times, Absolut!!

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