Posts by James Nicholls

I am a Reader in Media and Social Policy at Bath Spa University, and author of The Politics of Alcohol: A History of the Drink Question in England (Manchester University Press). If you're on Twitter you can follow me here @jamesqnicholls

Call for papers: Under control?: alcohol and drug regulation, past and present

Papers and panel proposals are invited for an international conference on the history of alcohol and drug regulation to be held in Bristol, UK 21st-23rd June 2013.

The conference will explore all aspects of drug, tobacco and alcohol regulation. Work covering all periods and places, including recent history, will be considered.

Confirmed keynote speakers:

Professor Virginia Berridge (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine)
Professor Paul Gootenberg (State University of New York)
Professor James Simpson (Carlos III University of Madrid)

Panel proposals (3 x 20-minute papers) or individual papers (20 minutes) are invited.  We will also consider proposals for fringe sessions using non-conventional formats e.g. screenings, debates etc.

Subjects may include (but are not limited to):

  • Global drugs trade and the war on drugs
  • Crime and policing
  • Prohibition
  • Tobacco control
  • Regulation of drugs in art, film and literature
  • Temperance and its influences
  • Alcohol licensing and pricing
  • Media regulation / advertising and marketing
  • Religion and alcohol or drugs
  • Dependency and treatment
  • Policymaking and the political process
  • Alcohol and radical politics / revolutions / social movements
  • Use and control of drugs in premodern cultures
  • Alcohol and drugs in sport and popular culture

Proposal formats:

Panel sessions: brief abstracts (c. 200 words) of each paper plus a brief statement (c. 200 words) outlining the panel theme and a brief biography of participants.

Single papers: brief abstract (c. 200 words) and brief biography

Fringe events: Outline of proposed event (up to 500 words) including proposed content, technical requirements and rationale.

Please send all proposals to undercontrol2013@gmail.com

Deadline for submission: 30th September 2012 

For more information, go to the conference website

The Drip Feed

Alcohol marketing is big business, but what is it for?  If the drinks industry is to be believed, advertising doesn’t make people drink more: it just encourages them to choose one brand over another.  If health campaigners are to be believed, alcohol marketing causes people to both start drinking earlier, to drink more frequently and to have more positive expectations about alcohol. Meanwhile, social researchers point out that advertising operates within a complex range of cultural and economic drivers and that it is extremely difficult to bracket off the impact of marketing from the other contextual influences that shape people’s beliefs and behaviours around drink.

In the last few weeks, a number of reports have been published calling for the stricter regulation – or outlawing – of alcohol marketing (see here, here and here). For health lobbyists, alcohol marketing is fundamentally problematic precisely because alcohol is not an ‘ordinary commodity’.  If, as they would argue, the goal of public policy should be to reduce consumption then all marketing is detrimental.  For drinks producers, such calls ignore the social value of alcohol, impinge unjustly on individual freedom, and overlook the fact that marketing is designed to promote brand awareness and loyalty, not increase overall consumption.  To many people the last claim may sound like equivocation, for what is the point of advertising if not to make people consume more?  However, the question of value is critical: do the potential social harms of alcohol outweigh our individual rights as consumers, or the corporate right of businesses to advertise their products? Continue reading →

Alcohol policy – a risky business

Last Friday, the UK Government released its new Alcohol Strategy.  It outlined plans to more strictly regulate late-night alcohol retail while signalling to the drinks industry that it should do more to tackle excessive consumption through voluntary agreements. However, it’s headline-grabbing provision was the introduction of minimum unit pricing to tackle binge drinking. Continue reading →

Continental drinking: qu’est-ce que c’est?

Does drink sneak up on you? A recent UK Government campaign warns that it might, especially if you’re the kind of person who likes the odd glass of wine or beer at home.

change4life

"Don't Let Drink Sneak Up on You"UK Dept. of Health

One drink leads to two and then … well, most of us probably recognise the pattern.  But did you know drinking two large glasses of wine a day could make you three times as likely to get mouth cancer?  No? You do now. The irony is that this campaign targets a type of drinking that British policymakers have often encouraged: the relaxed, civilised glass of wine at home, as opposed to the raucous skinful down the pub.  That is, the ‘continental’, as opposed to traditionally (or, stereotypically) British approach. Continue reading →