Do you really think it is wise, as the head of a pub company, to equate alcohol with cigarettes? There are enough temperance nuts doing that already without you helping them out.
Five years ago this would have been outrageous hyperbole, but things move pretty quickly in 'public' health. Five years ago I don't recall anyone ever seriously using the term 'Big Alcohol'. Big Tobacco, sure. Big Oil, sometimes. But 'Big Alcohol'—not so much.
That's all changing.
How's that for guilt by association? Alcohol Concern Wales—for it is they—have created a document which contrasts statements from the tobacco industry with statements from the alcohol industry. They're both the same, doncha see?
The logic here is lame even by temperance standards. They take no account of whether the statements might be true, for a start. They have dredged the internet and found comments that are roughly similar and that is enough for them.
And when I say roughly similar, I mean similar as in they're both spoken in English and involve words. Take this, for example....
“The Lorillard Tobacco Company today announced the launch of a nationwide youth smoking prevention programme. This...is in addition to the funds Lorillard and other companies have committed to the...youth smoking prevention and education programme.”
Lorillard Tobacco Company Press Release (1999)
“It is only through education, coupled with targeted interventions against misusers, that we can ultimately change the drinking culture...”
David Poley, Chief Executive of the Portman Group (2010)
Uncanny, eh? A tobacco company announces the launch of a youth smoking prevention programme (as it was required to do under the Master Settlement Agreement) and the Portman Group announces that, er, education and targeted interventions are essential to change the drinking culture. Both statements include the words "education" and "the". It's really quite spooky.
Or take this...
“[Increasing the price of cigarettes] discriminates against those who can least afford it. Increasing tobacco duty could cost the government billions of pounds...The Chancellor said the government’s policy on tobacco will reduce smoking. It’s not the government’s role to force people to quit.”
Simon Clark, Director of smokers’ lobby group Forest (2011)
“It is worrying that in the midst of a recession, when sales and consumption of alcohol are falling, that the Government should be talking about raising prices for all consumers, at a time when many are already struggling to make ends meet.”
Jeremy Beadles, Chief Exec. of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (2009)
Let's take the first quote. Clark is saying that cigarette taxes are regressive (clearly true), that very high prices increase smuggling (also true) and that it is not the government's job to force people to stop smoking (a moral question, but a valid opinion).
Beadles, however, is simply saying that increasing the price of a product used by 90% of the population during a recession will make people worse off. He is not referring to the poor, to smuggling, nor to whether the government should be trying to stop people drinking.
These comments have very little in common except they refer to taxes. In the minds of Alcohol Concern, however, any industry that opposes tax hikes on its products is following the Big Tobacco template. As they say on their 'glancesheet' ('Glantz sheet'?):
This glancesheet shows how arguments previously put forward by tobacco companies and lobbyists, to delay or prevent tighter regulation of the industry, have now been adopted by the alcohol industry to protect its own interests.
There should be a version of Godwin's Law for anyone who resorts to comparing an industry with the tobacco industry for rhetorical purposes, with extra marks for using the word 'Big' (capitalised, natch). To the neo-prohibitionists, any industry that dares to challenge them is "recycling Big Tobacco arguments" and, therefore, can be ignored.
The irony is that there is a template being copied here and it is being copied very precisely. The temperance lobby is demonising industry, demanding higher taxes, calling for a total ban on advertising, playing the 'think of the children' card, using junk statistics and talking about 'passive drinking'.
Now who did they get from, I wonder?