Does alcohol on greeting cards undermine public health messages about harmful drinking?

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Birthday and Christmas cards featuring alcohol or harmful drinking "reflect and reinforce a social attitude that excess alcohol consumption is acceptable and associated with celebration," warn experts in The BMJ today.

Tracey Polak, Assistant Director of Public Health, and Virginia Pearson, Chief Officer for Communities, Public Health, Environment and Prosperity at Devon County Council say these cards "influence views on and reinforce this as a social norm."

And with the UK buying more cards per person than any other nation (an average of 33 each a year) they urge the public to reflect on whether the message is one that they condone and wish to pass on.

Sir Henry Cole is widely credited with 'inventing' the first Christmas card in the UK in 1843, depicting a scene showing people drinking.

In 1980, an analysis of greeting cards revealed themes that suggested getting drunk is a natural and desirable concomitant of celebrations, and that drunkenness is humorous, enjoyable, and harmless.

Today, one billion greeting cards are sold in the UK annually, and alcohol remains a popular theme.

Illustrations and texts portray alcohol as enjoyable and fun, and can range from a glass of champagne with the word 'Cheers' to those that are more excessive and encourage , explain the authors.

Phrases such as 'let's get wrecked', 'all the gin' and 'trollied' are printed across images of people clearly drunk, surrounded by empty bottles, drinking directly from a bottle, or in some case unconscious.

But the idea that excess drinking as shown on many greeting cards cards is normal, enjoyable and to be encouraged is at variance with public health messages, they argue.

They point out that over 10 million people across the UK are drinking at levels which increase their risk of health harms, and alcohol consumption is the leading risk factor for ill-, early death and disability in those aged 15 to 49.

As the card market adapts and produces new themes, they say it is worth considering whether it influences societal views or whether societal views influence the card market.

They suspect the truth lies probably in the middle. "As cards with themes become more prevalent then a cultural norm develops where drinking in association with celebration becomes the expected."

And while manufacturers are unlikely to respond to lobbying to depict more responsible drinking, "they may change what they produce if consumers choose not to buy cards depicting irresponsible drinking."

But whether this leads to changes in is, however, another question, they say. There is little evidence of effective interventions which impact on social norm, with marketing, labelling, and advertisements designed to reduce excess drinking being shown to have small, short term and inconsistent impacts.

Ultimately the authors believe that the responsibility for choosing cards lies with the purchaser "so perhaps it is worth reflecting the next time that you choose one whether the message is one that you condone and wish to pass on," they conclude.


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More information: Opinion: Ding! Dong! - not too merrily on high, blogs.bmj.com/bmj/2018/12/20/d … too-merrily-on-high/
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Dec 22, 2018
"Tracey Polak, Assistant Director of Public Health, and Virginia Pearson, Chief Officer for Communities, Public Health, Environment and Prosperity at Devon County Council"

-Ahhh somebody's running out of ways to justify their bureaucratic jobs ey?

Dec 23, 2018
This sort of bullshit crops up towards the end of the year when bureaucrats need to justify their budgets for the coming year. "See? I wrote an article!"

Sad but true.

Dec 23, 2018
There is little evidence of effective interventions which impact on social norm, with marketing, labelling, and advertisements designed to reduce excess drinking being shown to have small, short term and inconsistent impacts.


These articles are like the headline: "Family of four go unhurt when gas stove fails to explode!"

Jan 02, 2019
These articles are like the headline: "Family of four go unhurt when gas stove fails to explode!"


https://en.wikipe...eadlines
Betteridge's law of headlines is an adage that states: "Any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no." It is named after Ian Betteridge, a British technology journalist

The reason why journalists use that style of headline is that they know the story is probably bullshit, and don't actually have the sources and facts to back it up, but still want to run it


The idea that greeting cards induce people to drink hails from the poorly replicating studies of social priming, which is the idea that infusing people with ideas influences their behavior later on. Critics point out that the effect probably doesn't exist.

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