04 December 2007

Please murder responsibly

Alcohol, in case you were unaware, can make you drunk. Under some circumstances it is unwise to drink a lot of it. If you drink a lot over a sustained period of time, it may give you quite a hurty tummy. But I know this because I am "drinkaware" (www.drinkaware.co.uk).

This website is a 'get out of jail free' card for the drinks industry, and you may have noticed it adorning some of the most creative advertising this country produces. Creative not through choice, but through necessity - according to the law, booze ads cannot "suggest that any alcoholic drink has therapeutic qualities (for example, stimulant or sedative qualities) or can change moods or enhance confidence, mental or physical capabilities or performance, popularity or sporting achievements...[they] must neither link alcohol with seduction, sexual activity or sexual success nor imply that alcohol can enhance attractiveness, masculinity or femininity." Given the usual subject matter of 95% of ads aimed at the under 40s, this rules out a heck of a lot.

Once upon a time you could advertise fags on telly more or less by suggesting the lower tar brand gave you a healthy chesty cough. As advertising has become more restrictive, and our reading of its messages more sophisticated, we are apparently in even greater need of protection from ourselves. In the information age there is a website to tell us how to enjoy Jack Daniel's "responsibly".

Jumping on this bandwagon, the newly-respectable world of online gambling similarly exhorts its gamers to "please gamble responsibly". They haven't yet got around to creating the fig leaf of a website yet - I expect they're just waiting for that next big win before they can afford to build it.

I may be missing a trick here, but I thought the idea of gambling was to be a little bit irresponsible. Like the idea of drinking was to get a little bit drunk. Not necessarily to excess - but similarly I don't expect a packet of cream cakes to tell me that eating them all may make me fat. The idea that sitting up until the wee hours playing cards with strangers for money can somehow be "responsible" seems a little at variance with my definition of the word.

I would suggest a new disclaimer instead to sit on the bottom of those ads for various pokertastic.com websites: "If you are the sort of person who needs a website to tell you what is and isn't responsible behaviour, then we suggest you don't visit this website. And stay away from sharp objects".

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