Self-regulation – a Danish speciality
The Danish attitude to alcohol has over the years been rather liberal. The poor man’s schnapps was more or less incorporated, if not into the constitution, then at least into the public mind.
Our good neighbours in Sweden and Norway have a lot of restrictions on its sale and distribution, which does not prevent them from consuming a lot – not to mention our cousins in Finland whose secret stills produced dangerous products that literally made people blind.
It would appear that legal restrictions have never solved the problem.
Under Danish consumer protection law, it is stated that everything in the marketplace should be sold, distributed and marketed in accordance with good standards in the interest of consumers. The consumer ombudsman is a gatekeeper with the authority to prohibit, prosecute and regulate on the basis of good standards and some strict regulations – among others, the prohibition to market and sell alcohol to children and teenagers.
Bearing in mind that prohibition is probably not the right way to go, the Danish private trade organisations agreed with the ministries of health and commerce to establish a control board made up of representatives from the different trade organisations such as Bryggeriforeningen (the Brewers Guild) and the Consumer Council – an NGO with public support.
However, the ombudsman yielded his activities on the marketing of alcohol to this control board (Alkoholreklamenævnet) and it has now, in a little over a decade, overseen the activities of retailers, manufacturers, restaurants and discos and criticised and advised them to follow the good standards laid down in the guidelines for the marketing of alcohol.
No legal sanctions are attached to the rules, but when criticised, the players generally improved their campaigns and take the advice given – from time to time influenced by an imaginary baseball bat in the background – from wholesalers and retailers taking steps to remove products from the marketplace unless marketed in accordance with good standards.
They should not use role models, combine alcohol with sexual or social success and generally not support disrespectful consumption of alcohol, so that we can enjoy the bright sides and avoid the darker ones. (The beer enthusiast association is one of the largest NGOs in Denmark, by the way.)
This goes to show that self-regulation works and should be trusted in other fields of public life to ensure that other more serious regulations are respected by the man in the street and are therefore easier to enforce. (ES)