A couple of blog posts ago, I mentioned the Double Burger, and how stupid it was to make such a song and dance about it (http://drmarkk.blogspot.com/2011/05/double-burger.html). All that achieves is that people will go out and try it. On Breakfast (TV1) this morning, there was a discussion of the breakfast beer, something also mentioned in the Herald http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10716825. People are up at arms that there is a beer being marketed for breakfast, which will supposedly cause people to drink more, in an already out of control binge drinking culture. Well, without doubt we have a huge problem with alcohol binging. Twenty people die a week, and innumerable people are victims of alcohol induced violence and accidents. My own family was struck by this a few years ago, when a very close relative died of alcohol poisoning. So, yes, at the one level the breakfast beer is bad news.
But again, the naysayers are wrong to make a big issue of it. If television and the Herald had not brought our attention to it, would anyone know that it existed, apart from those who noticed it through advertising. Someone needs to go out to these sorts of food, alcohol and drug police and give them a lesson, don't make an issue of something and it may not have much effect. I have always thought this of sex education at a young age. I remember hearing of students putting condoms on carrots in sex education classes and thinking, I bet half of the kids had never thought of doing that, and didn't know much about sex. But the education opened them up to a whole range of possibilities. I suspect such sex education, especially at an early teen age had the effect of making a number of kids more sexually active. Such things can be counter-productive.
I also came into contact with this in a short stint as a stand-in chaplain at St Kentigerns College a few years ago. At the time there was an epidemic of teenage suicides on both sides of the Tasman. I attended a conference at which the experts in Aussie had seen a reduction in suicides by a change of policy concerning reporting and responding to a suicide. They shifted from publicizing it, putting up memorials, and making an issue of them. They simply did not make a fuss, a quiet funeral, and no real 'celebration' of it. This was leading at the time to big reduction in teen suicide. The point is similar, make a fuss of something, and it will serve to enhance its appeal.
There is a fine art here isn't there. Agencies whose function is to seek to reduce alcohol abuse or obesity need to think very very carefully about what and how they respond to something. In an age where the media are looking for a good story, they can inadvertently be the cause of increasing what they seek to reduce. Clearly in the case of the double burger, and the breakfast beer, if they had said nothing, these products would remain far less known. As it is, I can imagine a whole swag of people going out and getting some of the beer to celebrate breakfast tomorrow.
It was interesting hearing the argument. The argument for the beer was effectively to challenge its difference to a breakfast champagne etc. And yes, what is the difference? As for me, the last thing I want is beer for breakfast – yuck.