Raise a toast, get wasted, and win a medal!

Living Journalism

Raise a toast, get wasted, and win a medal!

The Czech Republic is the best. In drinking beer, that is. According to statistics, Czechs consume an average of 135.4 litres of beer per year, surpassing Austria, which comes in at a distant second with barely 100 litres. These numbers include pregnant women and newborns.

Yes, the world is going through a rough time. A global pandemic just ended, the war is wagging just a country away, and we live in the middle of an economic crisis. However, beer is still cheap. Cheaper than water in some places in Czechia. Maybe Czech babies are just drowning their sorrows in alcohol… Unfortunately, that is not the case. The Czech Republic has been the champion in drinking beer for a long while. Quite a pickle. Except not really. People take this victory as some kind of achievement worth celebrating and being proud of. It´s easy to understand why. We are taught to see alcohol as something normal or cool rather than life-threatening.​​​​​​​

Alcohol is everywhere. In restaurants, shops, streets, and even television. One can´t even count how many beer and liquor ads are being broadcast. In some countries, for example, Finland, there are strict rules on which alcoholic beverages can and cannot be advertised and when. Spirits are banned in all media entirely, and mild alcoholic beverages can be advertised only after a particular hour.

The Czech Republic has restrictions as well, but they are much milder. People can watch a Fernet ad between parts of a family blockbuster here, even though booze commercials cannot be directed at children. Different rule, the use of alcohol cannot be linked to increased performance, achievement, or positive effects. The thing is, “positive effects” can have many interpretations. So in many ads, the true fun begins only after booze is brought in. We can see commercials with profound, moving messages like “every drop has a meaning” (Radegast) or even commercials and campaigns connected to the Olympics (PilsnerUrquell). Being drunk when accepting a gold medal - what a way to win! And it´s not just ads. Movies, tv shows… Chinaski sings about loving wine every day on the radio.

Alcohol is not a liquid medicine

However, it is a good thing that alcohol is virtually everywhere because alcohol is healthy. What a lovely myth: often said about wine or beer. While yes, beer does contain vitamin B and other minerals, because it is made from cereal grains, it should not replace one’s daily vitamin and nutrition intake. Not to mention, those vitamins are killed during the beer conservation. So there aren´t a lot of vitamins in Braník in Kaufland. The same goes for wine. Red wine has antioxidants that may help protect the lining of blood vessels in the heart. So, it is true that red wine has particular benefits in moderation. Moderation is the keyword here. In no sense should red wine be taken as an adequate heart medicine. According to Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), in the year 2020, alcohol was responsible for 6,5 thousand deaths per year in the Czech Republic. That is 6 % of all deaths in the country. For Finland in the same year, this number was only 1,7 thousand, which is 3 % of all deaths. Booze might be healthy. Death certainly is not.

Peer influences on drinking

Perhaps one is not influenced by catchy commercials on TV. Perhaps one knows that alcohol is not the health supplement you should take daily after breakfast. But there is another reason one might turn to drinking: Peer pressure. Not only are we constantly shown some random people having fun while drinking across all media, but we can observe the same with our friends and family. “One drink cannot hurt,” they are often saying. It is weird to choose to be sober, but badass to risk one or two beers before driving home. “Have one more; you’ll be sober before you drive home,” they say. It sounds awful, but in truth, it´s not that rare to hear that. In fact, the study Centrum pro výzkum veřejného mínění Sociologického ústavu Akademie věd shows that hidden peer pressure, which young people might not even notice, is the main reason why they drink. Young people see drinking as a social activity, a way to feel included in a group.

Should the Czech Republic stop getting drunk cold turkey? Is it even possible? The problem is so deeply rooted in our national identity that it is not a piece of cake. Czechs would have to turn off their phones and TVs. Stay at home. And even then, there is a possibility that they would just get wasted on their couch. The long way to a solution is changing the laws and creating new restrictions that are incompatible with celebrating alcohol. The sad thing is, common folk can´t change the law. However, they can stop and think. “Do we really want to be the best?” Because being the strongest drinker isn´t a reason to celebrate. It´s a reason for the change.