"BEEN to 176 countries. And still thirsty," screamed a recent advertisement in a print media.
If you think that this is a catchy promotion by an education provider -- after all there seems to be a thirst for knowledge all round -- you will be disappointed.
It is about a drink -- an alcoholic drink, in fact, a beer!
We are not sure who is thirsty. Could it be the producer of the drink? One which is thirsty for more profits, at the expense of creating a potential social menace?
In February, British Prime Minister David Cameron labelled Britain's drinking culture and growing alcohol problem as the "scandal of... society" which is said to have cost the National Health Service (NHS) more than STG2.7 billion (RM13.5 billion) annually.
Cameron was quoted as saying: "Every night, in town centres, hospitals and police stations across the country, people have to cope with the consequences of alcohol abuse.
"And the problem is getting worse. Over the last decade we've seen a frightening growth in the number of people -- many under age -- who think it's acceptable for people to get drunk in public in ways that wreck lives, spread fear and increase crime.
"This is one of the scandals of our society and I am determined to deal with it."
One tragic impact of this problem is the number of people hospitalised due to alcohol use. Last year alone, the UK saw some "200,000 hospital admissions caused primarily by alcohol, a 40 per cent rise in the past decade. The number of patients admitted with acute intoxication has more than doubled to 18,500 since 2002-03." Other figures seem to suggest that alcohol abuse costs accident and emergency services STG1 billion.
A recent report predicts that by 2015, binge drinking will cost the NHS even more -- STG3.8 billion, with 1.5 million accident and emergency admissions a year. Like the problem of addictive smoking, the drinking culture will only worsen, and will cause even more loss of lives.
Luckily for Malaysia, alcohol abuse is still not high on the list of issues in society but only if we are careful not to promote its consumption. Catchy advertisements like the one cited above must be viewed with utmost concern, if not banned just like that for tobacco.
By law, sport is now tobacco-free; why not make it alcohol-free too?
Then there is the matter of alcoholic beverages. During the recent UEFA Euro 2012, many slick advertisements appeared because the event was sponsored by the producer of a branded alcoholic drink.
Its website highlights that the "UEFA European Championship is considered the most successful marketing activity" for the beer company, the official partner of the championship, which claims to be one of the longest standing sponsors of European Football Championship since 1988.
Indeed, according to several news reports, the biggest winner of Euro 2012 is not Spanish La Roja, but the sponsoring beer company. It never had it so good!
Beer sales at the eight stadia and fan zones exceeded that of UEFA Euro 2008, with consumption up 40 per cent per spectator in stadia, according to the company's news release.
These figures do not take into consideration the gains in popularity via record TV audiences in a number of countries, including an all-time record for Spain that saw 15.5 million viewers who watched the final (83.4 per cent audience share), peaking at 17.9 million (90 per cent audience share).
Such widespread advertising may have dire consequences because alcoholic drinks do not carry warning labels or information about the dangers of drinking unlike tobacco products, which are mandated to do so.
Even so, a British Broadcasting Corporation report said that many people still do not accept the harm that alcohol can do to their health, despite government warnings. This is in contrast to the risks of smoking and obesity which are publicly acknowledged.
We have recognised that tobacco advertisements and sport do not mix, but alcoholic drinks have escaped our attention. Wait much longer and it will turn scandalous like in Britain. Malaysia can do better with one less problem, and the best way is to pre-empt the problem from happening by detaching alcohol advertisements from sport.
The sooner we sober up to this fact, the better.