You're here: Home / What we do / Alcohol Alert / Issue 3 2006 / Government launches 'Know your Limits'

Government launches 'Know your Limits'

In October 2006, the Home Office and the Department for Health jointly launched the ‘Know Your Limits’ Campaign,a high profile,£4million public awareness campaign aimed at raising awareness of the risks associated to ‘binge drinking’ among 18 to 24 year olds.

The campaign’s main element was a supposedly hard hitting advertisement, broadcast in cinemas and on television, warning the audience that ‘alcohol makes you feel invincible when you are most vulnerable’.The campaign illustrated a series of different scenarios where young people, thinking they were 'superheroes’ while drunk, took risks with their health and safety, for example, falling off high scaffolding. The advertisements were spread across cinema, radio,magazines and online throughout November 2006.

Launching the campaign, Public Health Minister Caroline Flint said: “In England it is estimated that 5.9 million people drink to get drunk.Males and females aged 18 to 24 are our priority in this campaign as they are the most likely to drink irresponsibly.

“We are not trying to demonise alcohol or stop people enjoying themselves.This is about encouraging young people to still have a good time but to know their limits, and to take responsibility for how much they drink.“Drinking too much alcohol alters your judgement and perception and can lead to people taking risks with their health and safety that they would never normally even consider while sober.

“This high profile advertising campaign will support the actions that the Government is taking to tackle the problem of alcohol related harm and we hope it will help create a culture where drinking responsibly is the norm.

We need to get the responsible drinking message across as 80 percent of pedestrian deaths on Friday and Saturday nights are drink related and nearly three quarters of peak time A & E admissions are alcohol related.”

Home Office Minister Vernon Coaker said: “We all have the right to enjoy a few drinks with friends and family but in doing so we have a duty of care to behave responsibly and not risk the safety and well-being of ourselves or other people.

“People who drink to excess put themselves in unnecessary danger and have to live with the consequences of their actions, whether that’s being arrested, an £80 fine or the unpleasant prospect of physical harm.

“This new £4 million advertising campaign illustrates the consequences people could face for drinking to excess. I want people to continue enjoying their nights out but urge them to drink sensibly to avoid situations that could result in police involvement, injury or worse.

“The Government is dedicated to reduce alcohol related harm and will continue to work with the police to clamp down on irresponsible drinkers and retailers while strengthening our partnerships with the alcohol industry to entrench responsible alcohol sales.” The campaign was welcomed by Srabani Sen of Alcohol Concern, David Poley of the alcohol industry’s Portman Group and Dr Ian Gilmore of the Royal College of Physicians.

At the campaign’s launch, when asked by the Institute of Alcohol Studies whether a mass media campaign was the most fruitful way of channelling limited resources,Vernon Coaker replied that the campaign formed part of the Government’s integrated approach towards alcohol policy. While the IAS did not oppose the campaign, it suggested that high profile but short lived campaigns of this type were unlikely to have much if any lasting impact.

The limitations of advertising initiatives are well documented - indeed, the evidence suggests that the effectiveness of such campaigns on actually changing behaviour is limited, although the impact may be difficult to quantify. People may notice, remember or even identify with a scenario portrayed in an advert, but they may not necessarily change their behaviour as a result of it.

Professor Martin Plant from the University of West England suggests that “this type of campaign is politically appealing because they suggest that the government is ‘acting’; [however they] are expensive, and invariably do not change drinking habits or reduce alcohol problems.Moreover, there is a real danger that [it] may simply serve to sensationalise, glamourise and add to the rebellious appeal of heavy drinking. Shock horror tactics have long been discredited as a basis for public education”

Plant,M & Plant,M (2006) Binge Britain:Alcohol and the National Response,Oxford,Oxford University Press. [p:95]