On the Wagon

Despite years of doctor’s orders, pleas from workmates and threats from girlfriends, both Dan and Stu have given up the amber ale and jumped onto the wagon.  The office hasn’t been the same without these two bright-eyed young scamps taking nips of whiskey under their desks, staggering in from a long lunch or having fisticuffs in the smoking room.  It’s taken a month of sobriety to get to know these two as they really are: a couple of grouchy assholes.

What fools we’ve been to waste so many hours in the grip of the bottle.  The scales have fallen from our eyes, we’ve accepted the greater power into our hearts and at last, given up the drink for good.  Who could have known that it would be Thailand’s new Minister for Health, one Dr. Mongkol na Songkhla, that would point the way?  Of course the reason I was coming home drunk at all hours, belting the wife and kids then passing out only to wake up with my dick in the coleslaw is all because of alcoholic beverage advertising!  And all these years I’d thought I was just an asshole.

And Stu will lose his endorsement deals.

Last month it was announced that the good doctor was going to ban all forms of alcohol advertising (TV, radio, print, sponsorship, giveaways, merchandise, point-of-sale, anything with a logo on it, including non-alcoholic products) and, get this, raise the drinking age to 25.

It takes a brave man to put forward such radical ideas, but it looks like the doc, who is unimpaired by such distractions as a democratic mandate (having been appointed by the leaders of September’s coup), has a pair of brass balls the size of coconuts.

As it turns out, the new cabinet returned the drinking age proposal to a committee made up of a fistful of ministries whose job will probably be to let the idea sink into the dregs of obscurity it deserves.  However, it looks like a blanket-ban on alcohol promotion is going ahead.

This isn’t the great news it may sound like to some.  The thing that has got the brewing industry in a stink is that Chang, beloved of tourists and synonymous with hangovers, sponsors Everton FC in the UK and it turns out that live international games are the only media that will escape censorship.  Great for Mr Chang, but it sucks for Mr Singha and his cronies.

They say that Thailand’s brewers spend 30 percent of their gross take in a competitive war of promotion, which accounts for about three percent of all media spending, so the new regulation takes about three percent off the bottom line of all media, including the esteemed publication you’re tightly gripping now.  This comes at the end of a year of stagnant growth and is estimated by Wimonwan Udomporn of Riche Monde (marketer of Johnny Walker) to cost 30,000 jobs, although she may be exaggerating.

But at the end of the day all that will really happen is some media publishers will go broke, beer will go down by 30% as producers compete over prices and there’ll be far less money for sporting events and concerts.

The Bartripping team has never been one to preach restraint but it is clear that Thailand has a problem with alcohol, other than not being able to buy it after midnight.  About eight percent of all alcohol consumed (that is, eight percent of all the booze that’s in beer, wine, whiskey and the rest) comes as lao khao, or rice whiskey.  Lao khao is cheap, tastes like metho, is available at up to 50 percent strength and is the tipple of choice for country folk, who abuse it regularly.  This damaging local spirit isn’t advertised at all, so the irony of this new regulation is that it may have no impact on alcohol abuse at all.

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