Drink and drive ... or smoke

Author: Elio F. Gagliano, MD
Article Published: 25 March 2009

A friend of mine, touring through Canada by car, came across a very amusing roadside billboard and thought it was worth a stop to photograph it.

He gave me a copy that I share with you (to left), not to point out what my friend found hilarious, but something else which I find criminal and which discloses in the open air the intermingling between business and politics, in other words the corruption going on at the expense of citizens. When I say "expense" I do not refer to the pocketbook. I'm talking about expense in human life.

Take a look at the advertisement. What my friend found amusing was the phrase: "Save the space between your legs for your girlfriend", which, no doubt about it, is humorous. I, myself, thinking of the guy who conceived that billboard, thought: "You son of a gun!". Now, put aside all the funny thoughts that come to mind, and let's consider what the message conveys: "Now you can drink while you drive because we give you an Extra-wide bottle with a Spill-proof cap that fits your cupholder."

Why did I find the advertisement a criminal offense? Because, even though in Canada [stored link] the alcohol industry doesn't face the same advertising restrictions that tobacco producers do, it is common knowledge that drinking and driving do not get along too well. In the daily chronicle, alcohol continues to be a major influence behind fatal traffic accidents.

What's more, Alberta's [stored link] official immigration website states: "Canada has strict laws about drinking alcohol and driving a motor vehicle", and as a matter of fact, you don't even need to be under the influence of alcohol to break the law because: "It also is against the law to have an open bottle of alcohol in a vehicle. Even unopened containers of alcohol must be out of reach of the driver and passengers (for example, in the trunk of a car)."

Based on these premises, that Corona beer advertisement is an incitement to break the law. Therefore, both those who produced the advertisement and those who gave permission to post it in public spaces are punishable. The fact that, in Canada, alcohol companies are allowed to advertise alcoholic beverages to adults is not an extenuating factor as the streets are not limited to adults.

In Health and Wellness by Gordon Edlin and Eric Golanty, it is said: "Pharmacologically, alcohol acts as a central nervous system depressant  … Alcohol's effects on motor skills, judgment, and reaction times make driving after drinking extremely dangerous. Even after just one or two drinks, although an individual may mot be legally drunk, reaction time, perception, and judgment are impaired. Approximately 40% of the nearly 40,000 highway fatalities [in the USA] each year involve people who are intoxicated. Each year there are more than 120 million episodes of alcohol-impaired driving in the United States."

I would like to point out that in Canada there are stringent bans on tobacco publicity: the tobacco companies are not allowed to advertise their products in the media or through sponsoring sporting and arts events, or on billboards, specifically. Am I advocating tobacco promotions? Not at all. Smokers don't need them to enjoy their puffs.

But I would rather see, in place of the above poster, one like that at the right of this page, which besides being gratifying to the eyes and the mind, and besides not being pornographic (see above re "space between legs"), also would not instigate folks to drink  alcohol with the intrinsic danger of causing car accidents.

It might remind you to light up a cigarette, whose nicotine does not afflict "reaction time, perception, and judgment": on the contrary, nicotine would be beneficial since it enhances the actions of norepinephrine and acetylcholine which arouse the tired driver; it also elevates levels of dopamine and beta-endorphin, which reduce anxiety / tension and promote a feeling of well-being, while also suppressing appetite: a good thing as the driver, on the highway, won't have the urge to stop for eating, and if he doesn't eat, he won't feel sleepy because he ate too much and/or accompanied the meal with a drink.

Hence, let's light up, drive safely and, when you have arrived at your destination, then have your drink (about which we'll talk soon.)

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