#nofilter: Is it possible to talk about alcohol responsibly?

It is fairly safe to say that alcohol has always been a contentious issue in Finland. The debate has been heated at times especially in recent years when alcohol laws have come under scrutiny.

Alcohol is a hot topic for many different spheres of society, as it has implications on at least our national economy, businesses, public health and individuals’ freedoms and obligations.

The way we talk about alcohol is not irrelevant, because the image we create in people’s minds shapes their reality. So how exactly should we to talk about such a multifaceted phenomenon in order to give as truthful a picture of it as possible? Is it possible to talk about alcohol responsibly?

Many different perspectives – but no extremes

In many ways, alcohol has become a part of everyday life: a glass of wine over lunch or a pint after work. On the other hand, alcohol costs society billions of euros. There are therefore at least cultural and health-related perspectives to take into consideration.

The two perspectives are not extremes of the same phenomenon. The truth does not lie somewhere in between the two perspectives and neither is one perspective more true than the other; both perspectives are equally true and equally valid representations of the phenomenon that is alcohol.

Examining a phenomenon from as many different perspectives as possible often produces the best result. Alcohol cannot be approached from just one angle but must be talked about taking into account all the different perspectives in order to provide a full picture of the phenomenon.

Customers have the right to know

In my opinion, any talk about a product that causes addiction and has harmful effects must be based on the premise that the customer needs to be given transparent information about what the product is and how it affects them. As much as people might want to only think about alcohol from a cultural perspective, its impacts on health cannot be denied nor concealed from customers. On the other hand, talking only about the effects that alcohol has on health does not portray the phenomenon truthfully either.

Alcohol has an impact on everyone who drinks it, but it also affects the world around us. Alcohol has social implications for families, for example, and there are thousands of children in Finnish homes who flinch every time they hear a cork pop. Alcohol production also puts a strain on the soil, and the impacts are therefore not limited to Finland.

So what does this mean from the perspective of communications? My belief is that if we combine the different perspectives of the phenomenon and transparency, we can create a dialogue. A dialogue benefits all those who take part in it and helps to further their common cause.

This is what I aim at in my communications and daily work. I try to be constructive and interactive but also open and truthful in what I say. I believe that this is a responsible way to talk about alcohol.

Ilari Ceder

The author is Alko’s Communications Manager