By Alison Douglas, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland.
After years of objectifying and sexualising women in their advertising, the alcohol industry is now targeting women more directly, linking their products to women’s friendships, feminism and empowerment. However, women’s empowerment will always be secondary to increasing profits for these companies.
Whilst men still drink significantly more than women, the gap between alcohol men and women consume in the UK is narrowing. The consequences for our health are significant with alcohol-specific deaths among women reaching the highest rate in 2017 since records began in 2001. Women are often unaware of the risks. For example, Cancer Research UK states that the risk of breast cancer increases even at very low levels of drinking and estimate that 8% of all breast cancer cases in the UK are due to alcohol.
Meanwhile, the alcohol industry is firmly focused on the growth potential of women consumers, with the proliferation of pink gins and the unrelenting promotion of Prosecco as well as the creation of products such as skinny lager for the calorie conscious.
To counter this, Professor Carol Emslie, who leads Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) Substance Use and Misuse research group, has joined forces with Alcohol Focus Scotland to challenge the idea that every day or excessive drinking is normal and desirable.
The #dontpinkmydrink campaign seeks to call out aggressive marketing of alcohol to women whether it’s pink, sweet or low-calorie products all of which are aimed at expanding the industry’s market. It also calls attention to how alcohol is continuously normalised within our society by phrases such as “Is it wine o clock yet?” and “Pop the Prosecco”.
All year round we are bombarded with alcohol marketing from every direction. But alcohol marketers are now routinely capitalising on any and every holiday and special occasions to promote their brands. It’s no wonder that many of us now consider that alcohol is central to celebration and gift-giving. We’ve seen everything from gin-flavoured pancake syrup, cards for birthdays and Mothers’ day emblazoned with messages encouraging us to ‘get wrecked’ and have ‘all the gin’, to gifts, cushions and even sportswear celebrating ‘gin-dependent women’.
What can we do?
We would love for you to join us in highlighting cynical examples of marketing and help us to call out the retailers and producers letting them know that we won’t endorse their products.
If we pull together could we bring about change by using our purchasing power? We can all think twice about choosing to buy gimmicky alcohol-themed gifts and cards. But why not choose differently this year whatever the occasion, rather than a gift with an alcohol-theme could you treat those you love to some rest and relaxation time to themselves, or find something you can enjoy together?
We have previously seen the power of the consumer in calling out retailers for misguided products and promotions, with items being removed from sale. If we can build enough support for #dontpinkmydrink and challenge the normalisation of alcohol as an essential part of our everyday lives we may see producers and retailers change in response.
You can support the campaign by sharing pictures of alcohol advertising, marketing and merchandise which targets women on social media using the hashtag #dontpinkmydrink.
Visit https://www.alcohol-focus-scotland.org.uk/campaigns-policy/alcohol-marketing/dontpinkmydrink/ for more information.