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Sat, 22 Jun 2024 Article

Alcohol advertisement by celebrities: Has the Supreme court defused a time-bomb?

By Inspector Akwasi Ofori
Alcohol advertisement by celebrities: Has the Supreme court defused a time-bomb?
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Few days ago, the Supreme Court ruled to maintain directives by the Food and Drug Authority (FDA) which prohibit well-known personalities from participating in alcohol advertisement campaigns. The FDA insisted that due to the influential nature of these showbiz personalities, alcohol advertisement they are involved in could push minors into alcoholism. However, the plaintiff’s case was that the directive was discriminatory against the creative arts industry and that the it was inconsistent with and in contravention of articles 17(1) and 17 (2) of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana.

It should be established that prior to this legal tussle, many professionals, including Dr Kwaku Agyeman-Manu had expressed worrying concern about the prevalence of alcohol use and its implication on the youth in Ghana. According to Dr Agyeman-Manu, the informal sector which produces alcoholic beverages with percentages of ethyl alcohol was highly unregulated, and that the current trend of consumption and the inadequate regulation, especially on both the print and the electronic media, was a source of worry.

Thus, in order to appreciate the relevance and magnitude of the Supreme Court’s decision to maintain the FDA directives, I employ Richard Osmer’s four (4) guiding principle in practical theological interpretation. Osmer’s framework encourages a contextually aware approach to decision-making. In other words, individuals must thoughtfully consider complex situations and make informed decisions grounded in their beliefs and values. Thus, Osmer proposed that decision making must be informed by the following guiding principles:

  1. What is happening?
  2. What does it mean?
  3. Is it morally desirable?
  4. How should we respond?

What is happening?

  1. Daily Graphic report on February 19, 2021 indicates that about 36% of Ghanaian youth are addicted to alcohol and other drugs. Also, a study conducted by Ishmael Norman on the topic, “Prevalence of Alcohol Consumption and Factors Influencing Alcohol Use Among the Youth of Tokorni –Hohoe, Volta Region,” on some 316 youth discloses that 73.7% of males were currently consuming alcohol and 26.3% of females were also currently drinking. Most of the respondents who consume alcohol according to the study were in their active age of 20-25, which accounts for approximately 45% and the least was recorded among the age group of 31-35. In Another study by A. M Tampah-Naa examining 894 SHS students in Accra found that 46.2% of the respondents were currently using alcohol. Another study by Oti Boateng Nana Yaw also entitled, “Alcohol Consumption among University of Ghana students on Legon campus” discloses that about 55.6% of students in Legon within the ages of 20-24 have used alcohol and about 25. 81% of the study population were problem drinkers whiles 29.79% are former drinkers with the most preferred alcohol type being wine, followed by beer and spirits.

What does this mean?
The above data, although succinct, significantly reflects the views that in Ghana, alcohol is the drug of choice due to its availability, accessibility, legality, and inadequate regulation. It’s also a reflection that the social and economic implications of youth alcoholism are far-reaching and can have a long-lasting effect on individuals, communities, and society as a whole if not mitigated. Socially, alcohol use among the youth have been linked with absenteeism, truancy, poor academic performance and mental health problems whilst medically, it has been proven that alcohol use and misuse exacerbate mental health conditions like depression, anxiety and other chronic diseases.

Alcohol advertisement by celebrities: Is it morally desirable?

Well, for the ethical egoist, self-interest is the primary motivator for action. The ethical egoist would often ask, how does this bring me pleasure? Thus, for the ethical egoist, there could be nothing wrong when one decides to participates in alcohol advertisement as long as it promises personal economic gains. On the other hand, the doctrine of Utilitarianism holds that a moral action is right if they are useful for the benefit of a majority. For the Utilitarian, focus or emphasis should be laid on majority rather than individuals. Utilitarian would often ask the question, “how would this produce the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people?”

To situate this conversation into the proper Ghanaian context, one may go further to examine the Afrocentric moral philosophies. Afrocentric moral philosophies offer a unique framework for addressing ethical issues, prioritizing community, reciprocity, and the well-being of all people. Some key concepts include, unity, love, hospitality, hard work, sanctity of life, responsibility and purpose. Therefore, using these values as a benchmark, we may then pose the question for reflection: what would be the moral posture of Ghanaians towards the participation of celebrities in the advertisement of alcohol?

How should we respond?
Considering the alarming rate of alcohol use and misuse among young people in senior high schools, should we embrace laws that seek to regulate alcohol use or encourage influential members of society to project the advertisement of hard liquors in pursuit of their personal gains?

Insp. Akwasi Ofori
Ghana Police Service
Formed Police Unit Headquarters
Accra
[email protected]

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