When thinking about the prevalence of alcohol in our communities it occurred to me that the messages we receive about alcohol extend far beyond the glossy, bright advertisements and the modern (often oversized) local LCBO’s. Alcohol consumption has really been engrained, normalized, and even celebrated in Canadian culture.
What does this mean? Alcohol consumption is viewed as a normal part of any celebration. New Year’s Eve could not conceivably take place without champagne. St. Patrick’s Day is as synonymous with beer as it is with Ireland or the colour green. And the upcoming Canada Day weekend is known to be celebrated with drinking and fireworks.
But this normalization extends even further than the use of alcohol in celebrations – drinking is an integral part of some cultures. The English and aforementioned Irish are known for their beer and pubs. Italy and France are renowned for, and very proud of, their wine. The Caribbean is known for rum, Germans are famous for their beer and Russians seem to enjoy their vodka. Herein lies the challenge.
How can we recommend people reduce their drinking when alcohol consumption has a deep rooted history in many cultures? How can we convince people about the negative health effects of alcohol when drinking is linked with positive connotations like fun and celebrations?
As the saying goes, history is written by winners, and to date the winners have been the alcohol industry and its supporters. We need to begin writing a new narrative about the realities of heavy alcohol use, exposing the dangers of drinking on the health of both individuals and society as a whole. And the time to start is now.
Collecting scotch is expensive. Entry-level single malt scotch is about $60 a bottle and the price goes up, depending on rarity and quality. I had considered collecting wine as well, but I could not afford to do both. For fun, I did some cost-benefit analysis.
Collecting wine is cheaper than scotch (by the bottle), but wine collectors tend to buy many more bottles. Just on volume this makes sense, considering there are approximately 15 servings of scotch inside one 750ml bottle, while there are about 5 servings of wine in the same-sized container. So the ratio of servings is about 3:1.
Interestingly, if the wine averages about $20 a bottle, the cost per serving is about the same.
3 bottles of wine x $20 = $60, for 15 servings
1 bottle of scotch x $60 = $60, for 15 servings
Therefore the cost is $4 per serving, wine or whiskey. As you collect, you are likely going to invest in pricier stuff as you go along, so the price per serving will probably go up.
If you track your average consumption of scotch or wine for one month, you could roughly figure out how your consumption is adding to the expense of your hobby. Tracking it like that is a bit of a buzz-kill, of course, but probably wise from a financial perspective as well as from a health perspective. The less you consume, the better your collection!
Over the years I have given alcohol advertising a lot of thought. When I was younger, I looked at these ads and was envious of the beautiful, sexy bodies that the models had. I used to think that if I drank that type of beer, I could look like them, have a man who looked like that and be living the ‘life’ of the young and restless. With age comes the realization that this is just marketing … it’s not reality. If I drink beer like they do, I won’t look like them or have the carefree, party lifestyle that is portrayed so prevalently in beer commercials. All my partner and I will have will be beer bellies … and beer bellies don’t just look bad, they are extra weight, which in turn is linked to an increased risk of chronic disease. What else have I learned? If it looks too good to be true, it probably is. You can’t drink like that without putting your health at risk.
They drink like mad, they smoke like mad and they chase women like mad. Is it any wonder Mad Men is so addictive? Whether or not they really did carry on like that back then is a topic much discussed in media. Some say it’s not possible to drink like these characters and still function, while others in the advertising business remember these days and see them as wonderfully accurate. The era was before my time, but I once had a conversation with a friend who was raised in Don Mills, Canada’s first planned community. Her mom was a suburban housewife, a role depicted as somewhat oppressive in Mad Men, and when her businessman father returned home from the office, her mom had the cocktails ready. Today this lifestyle seems like a cliché, but it really was another time, before we knew that smoking kills, and that drinking beyond the low risk drinking guidelines can harm our health.