Sunday, May 19, 2013
Wine, beer and cocktail lovers: Our lifestyle is threatened
Last week the National Transportation Safety Board recommended forcing states to lower the legal blood-alcohol level for DUI to 0.05.
I'm asking you, all of you, to help in the fight against this. Here's how.
The argument in favor of lowering the limit is strongly emotional: It may save lives. Maybe. But even one life is precious. Blah blah. Lowering the national speed limit to 50 mph would also save lives; so would outlawing Coca-Cola or margarine. Or, dare I say it, handguns.
Still, it's hard, politically, to counter emotional arguments. I haven't figured out how to do so without sounding like a cavalier cad.
But we must. We must learn to transmit the message that drinking wine or beer with dinner, or a cocktail before, is a part of a healthy, adult lifestyle; one of the gifts given to us by God; a part of civilization as long as there has been civilization. We need a way to say this succinctly, sympathetically and effectively or we will be beaten.
As a country, the US -- where 1/3 of adults report that they never drink alcohol -- is uniquely susceptible to moral-sounding laws that are terrible ideas.
Prohibition, for example. The great majority of politicians who voted for Prohibition drank themselves, but they couldn't afford to publicly oppose a law that would reduce alcoholism, spouse abuse, cirrhosis, societal breakdown, etc. The law passed because its opponents didn't have modern organization and messaging capabilities; they didn't know what a national image campaign was. But we do.
How serious is the threat to a healthy adult lifestyle, enjoying a glass or two of wine with our meals? France lowered its DUI standard to 0.05 a few years ago, and the law has been devastating for countryside restaurants and the wine industry. The entire culture of rural fine dining in France has been irreversibly altered. In fact, some people in the wine industry say the entire centuries-old culture of France has been altered, and not in a good way.
I'm not yet prepared to defend myself on this issue against MADD and other zealots. And I'm just a blogger; I have nothing at stake other than one of life's fundamental pleasures.
But for the industry, there's a lot at stake. Everyone who works in messaging -- PR, advertising, political consulting -- needs to think about this, now.
In the coming days I plan to contact my friends at the Wine Institute and the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers Association. They are not natural allies, but both of them will lose business if this law passes. I don't know anyone at the National Restaurant Association, but I'm going to contact them too.
What I'm going to ask is, "What are you doing about this proposed harsh new national DUI law?" I'll also offer my help, for what it's worth.
This is a good time for them to prepare for the media anyway. I am sympathetic on this issue. Others will be calling, and they will not be. So I'll be interested to learn what these organizations are preparing to say.
In the meantime, dear reader and wine/spirits/beer lover, please think on this yourself. If you have suggestions, please leave them in the comments. We need to put our heads together on this. Our lives aren't at stake, but our culture is.
Posted by W. Blake Gray at 11:00 PM