Day 18. 47 pages, 22,272 words.
So, a lot of my Finnish friends were posting pictures and comments about whiskey on their Facebook walls and blogs over the past few days.
This is because, well, the government is bringing in this new set of laws controlling the advertising of alcohol. Much like the bans on advertising tobacco, these laws are intended to stop assorted advertisements and promotions of alcoholic beverages in the interests of public safety. This apparently extends to assorted amusing landmarks, like the “big beer can” in front of the Sinebrychoff plant.
There’s a bit to digest there right off the bat. First of all, on its face it seems like a good idea. Tobacco is a legal drug, yes, but it is terrifically dangerous. So limiting its exposure is a good idea. We already only sell it in certain select places and only to people over a certain age – just like alcohol. And alcohol is likewise extremely dangerous stuff. It’s addictive, it can fuck up your health and your social life, and while you are unlikely to die dropping a beer on yourself in bed the way you could with a lit cigarette, you’re also way safer having ten cigarettes and then trying to drive a car.
So, limit the advertisements. Because the kiddies will never know this stuff exists if there aren’t advertisements romanticising it, right?
Except a) that’s not how it works in reality, because everybody knows all the best stuff isn’t advertised on billboards anyway, and b) once you decide one legal substance is bad for people, where do you draw that line? It was dubious enough with tobacco, but alcohol as well? As a friend of mine pointed out, what about fashion and swimwear and lingerie advertisements that help create a culture of body-image and health problems for young kids? Fast food? Movies, video games, power tools?
As I suggested at the time, there can only be one (yes, absurdo) end state to this. And it is banning all advertising, letting everyone just decide what they want and go and find it. I mean, this is the Internet Age so this is not actually a tall order. You can find it on Google or Amazon or whatever. We don’t need this stuff advertised.
Then this bloke held a Beer and Whisky Expo.
Long story short, it seemed like in order to advertise this event, the dude was no longer allowed to have “and Whisky” in the name, because it was advertising strong liquor. His liquor license approval process depended on obeying this rule. He was apparently then told that talking about “whisky” on his blog and assorted other places was off, because people using Google to search for “whisky” (or in Finnish, “viski”) might find his event by accident and that would be a violation of the rules.
As another friend of mine has pointed out in connection with a certain expo at which balloons were popped and thrown in a landfill rather than given to young children to enjoy, when Finns do not know if there is a rule to cover a situation, they will make up a rule and then stick to that.
Of course, the Finnish Internet lost its collective mind.
Now, it seems like the whole thing was a bit of a publicity-oriented crying of wolf, and the actual rules weren’t as strict and stupid as all that. Here’s what I could find in Finnish about the whole thing too.
So, I don’t know. I think we can still talk about booze online, same as we can talk about smoking. It’s just official public advertising that is going to be a problem, and let’s face it. The government still doesn’t know how to even start to control the Internet for that sort of thing yet. They’re still playing catch-up.