Are greeting cards to celebrate birthdays and holidays unwittingly promoting unsafe drinking? That’s the question British public health officers are asking.
Dr. Virginia Pearson, chief officer for Communities, Public Health, Environment and Prosperity at Devon County Council, and her assistant director, nurse Tracey Polak, worry that depictions of drinking on greeting cards may “reflect and reinforce a social attitude that excess alcohol consumption is acceptable and associated with celebration.”
In an article they penned for the journal BMJ, the pair suggest that depictions of drinking on greeting cards could reinforce drinking as a social norm.
Pearson and Polak cite a 1980 analysis of greeting cards. Back then, cards portrayed drinking as natural, and being drunk as harmless fun.
Things haven’t changed much, the pair said.
They found that illustrations on cards continue to portray drinking as fun. Accompanying text includes phrases from “Cheers!” to “Let’s Get Wrecked!” Some greeting cards even portrayed people as “clearly drunk” and surrounded by empty bottles, the pair said.
This message is at odds with one that public health organizations have been working to spread for years: drink in moderation, if at all, because alcohol has consequences.
“As cards with alcohol themes become more prevalent then a cultural norm develops where drinking in association with celebration becomes the expected,” they wrote.
Pearson and Polak outlined a few of the issues. For one, more than 10 million people in the United Kingdom alone regularly drink at unsafe levels that put their health at risk. Additionally, alcohol is a leading cause of death and disability among people aged 15 to 49, they said.
Greeting cards aren’t likely to change because of their article, Pearson and Polak acknowledged. As long as people buy cards that depict unsafe drinking, companies will continue to make them. But if the demand goes down, companies are likely to turn to other designs.
“… perhaps it is worth reflecting the next time that you choose one whether the message is one that you condone and wish to pass on,” they wrote.