The LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario) is “an Ontario government enterprise and one of the world’s largest buyers and retailers of beverage alcohol.” Posters like the one below (Photo by: The Ethical Adman) can be seen in many LCBO stores. They are part of what LCBO calls the Social Responsibility program. Below are five reasons why Ontarians would be better off if they didn’t have to look at these posters every time they buy alcoholic beverages.
1. They are vague
What does it mean to drink responsibly? How many times per day? How large should the drinks be? What should the alcohol content be? How far should my children be when I’m drinking? Should we engage in any specific rhetorical rituals before starting to drink, like explaining to others that we are about to have a drink? Are there any thought processes we should practice? If so, what kinds of thought processes?
I could keep going with these questions, but you get the picture. Even if I wanted to follow LCBO’s advice to drink responsibly, if I don’t know LCBO’s definition of responsible drinking, I will not be able to follow this advice. What if my definition of responsible drinking is completely out of line compared to the LCBO definition? Then, the poster will be completely ineffective. I think that I am already drinking responsibly. So, there is no need for me to change anything even though my drinking habits may not satisfy the desires of the LCBO’s poster-makers.
2. They are self-contradicting
The poster says that the lessons we, their parents, teach are important to our children. So far so good. I want my children to learn from me. In fact, I want them to learn from me and not from some government bureaucrat that treats other adults like children who need others to remind them to behave responsibly. This is why, if I am to follow LCBO’s advice to provide a good role model to my children, I should NOT give any weight to the poster. If I give any weight to the LCBO poster, I am sending the message to my children that I accept being treated like a child by other individuals (i.e., the LCBO poster-makers). I certainly do not want to send this message to my children. Therefore, as a good parent, I must ignore the poster.
3. They are hypocritical
Imagine a cocaine dealer coming to his buyer and saying: “Your children look up to you, use cocaine responsibly.” You can imagine what the likely reaction to this “advice” would be. If I was a cocaine user, I would politely suggest to my dealer that he change his occupation if he is worried about the negative effects of cocaine use on the well being of my children. So, why should my alcohol provider get any other treatment? Only because his selling of alcohol is legal and the drug dealer’s selling of cocaine is not? I wouldn’t say so. We know that prohibition laws are arbitrary. Someone could decide tomorrow to ban a substance that was perfectly legal yesterday. Having this in mind, my answer to the LCBO poster-maker worrying about the well being of my children would be: If your emotional distress caused by your lack of trust in my ability to exercise responsibility is so high that you feel the need for sticking a poster in front of my face, please feel free to sell some other substance to me. I don’t know, maybe strawberries. They’re healthy and children like them too.
4. They induce emotional distress in our children
The first couple of times my daughter saw the LCBO sad child poster, she did not ask anything but became strangely silent. Then, after seeing the poster two or three more times, my daughter asked me: “Why is this girl so sad?” I didn’t have a good answer right away. I mean, I did have a good answer, but not an answer that a seven-year-old would understand. Over time, I managed to persuade her that there is no association whatsoever between that girl on the poster and her; that the girl on the poster is sad because that’s how she was supposed to look for the photo-shoot, not because her parents go to the LCBO. My daughter now understands that there are some people who feel good about themselves when they try to make others feel bad about themselves. These people made the poster.
5. They increase, rather than reduce our need for alcohol
(Warning: Any satire you might find in this point is intentional.)
After a person of normal intelligence sees the LCBO sad child poster, he or she generally goes through the mental process of realizing the above four points. This is generally followed by a feeling of frustration and mental pain, pain resulting from realizing that some people may actually think you are that dumb and not notice the arrogance and disrespect in the poster. There are different ways one can ease this pain. Some people exercise, some eat, some meditate, some talk to their friends, some use drugs, and some drink alcohol. Since you are already at the liquor store, buying some more alcohol seems to be the most convenient pain killing option at the moment. Although I don’t think other people’s alcohol consumption should be any of my concerns, and thus I would not include reason #5 into my personal list of reasons why the LCBO sad child poster should go down, we know that the LCBO poster-makers, at least on paper, care about our alcohol consumption. Thus, if their objective is to have some control over our alcohol consumption, they should seriously consider removing the sad child poster. The poster increases our need for drinking.