Bingeing On Stupidity


The advertising censors get worked up about the idea of someone having more than two pints of lager in a session.

It’s starting to feel as though January is booze month here on The Reprobate – whether that is an unconscious reaction against the mealy-mouthed piety of Dry January or simply because the start of the year brings every miserablist nagging cunt out of the woodwork to punish us for the excesses of Christmas I don’t know, but stories like this one suggest the latter.

Back in September 2019, The Folly Bar in Boston, Lincolnshire ran a Facebook post promotion offering the opportunity to buy “your own keg for you and your friends! Over 50 cold pints available at your fingertips — Have it next to your table in the main room, our private room or outside in the beer garden!” Complete with some vintage clip art of a dapper chap enjoying a pint, the ‘ad’ – and we might question if a Facebook post actually qualifies as an ad rather than the sharing of information with people that have requested it, but that’s by the by – didn’t sound like an invitation to bacchanalian excess, and while it worked out a little cheaper than buying the pints individually – £2.50, which may or may not be a huge discount depending on the average price of a pint in Boston –  the main selling point seems to be that it’s more convenient for parties, perhaps a little like hiring a room with its own bar, giving a sense of privacy and avoiding people missing the party by having to queue at the bar. Other than the fact that you’d be restricted to Heineken – which, for us, is where the offer falls to the ground – it seems a fairly civilised option for parties and social get-togethers.

But no.

One complainant – and it’s always just one in these cases – decided that the ad was “irresponsible because it encouraged the excessive consumption of alcohol.” And naturally, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) – who, we have to constantly remind people, is not an authority at all in any legal sense – agreed in a judgement this week. This is despite the fact that the Folly Bar pointed out that the offer was aimed at groups of ten or more, though they had not pointed that out in the promotion. Perhaps it was possible that a pair of hardened drinkers might have ordered a keg to share, getting lashed on twenty-five pints each – though the fact that they would be supervised by bar staff makes that unlikely. There was nothing in the promotion that stated that you couldn’t be cut off until the keg had been drained, so the likelihood of anyone being allowed to knock back half a keg and (a) not get thrown out and (b) not die is quite low. The keg was also not a spontaneous decision – you couldn’t just be stood in the bar, enjoying your third pint, and then say “you know lads, this waiting to get served is for the birds, let’s buy a keg.” You had to order it in advance, online, fill in a form and state the approximate number in your party.

Still, fifty pints between ten people – the theoretical minimum – is still five pints a piece and this is a problem. You and I might think five pints over the course of an evening at a party is not Oliver Reed levels of excess, but what do we know? Not as much as the renowned medical experts at the National Office of Statistics, clearly, who have defined ‘binge drinking’ as eight units in a day for men and a mere six for women. Given that an average pint of lager contains three units, you can see how the very idea of binge drinking has been bastardised. When we think of binge drinking, I imagine we think of people who are so bladdered that they can scarcely move – the sort we see lying unconscious or stumbling down the street in those newspaper photos highlighting the problems of Booze Britain. No one outside essentially prohibitionist organisations would realistically think that someone having three pints is on a rampant bender, but unfortunately, prohibitionist organisations are the ones with the whip hand, and compliant or supportive journalists (none of whom every drink to excess or engage in other less legal stimulants while out in their private clubs, of course) repeat the claims of these organisations unquestionably.

The UK’s Chief Medical Officer (CMO)’s Low Risk Drinking Guidelines advises both men and women not to drink regularly more than fourteen units a week. These should be spread across the week – you can’t save your units up in a rollover and then enjoy a Richard Burton-level evening of five-pint delirium. In the eyes of the ASA, this advice has transmuted into hard rules, written in stone (at least until the next time we have a ‘Booze Britain’ panic orchestrated and the limits are once again arbitrarily changed). The ‘ad’ was banned.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – the reinvention of ‘binge drinking’ to three pints does nothing to help moderate the way people drink. When you redefine dangerous binge drinking to the levels where it seems less about genuine health concerns and more about finger-wagging disapproval, you risk any serious messages about the dangers of excessive drinking being ignored. Life is short and full of misery, and people who have spent a week grinding away at a shitty job are unlikely to appreciate some quango then telling them off for having a few fleeting moments of pleasure at a weekend. Raise your glasses, and raise a finger to the ASA, the ONS and others who try to micro-manage your lives.


Thanks to