The parade of ugly alcohol statistics in WHO’s “Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health 2018” and public health advocacy in “Trouble Brewing,” highlighted in last week’s AII Update, capped a difficult period for the alcohol beverage industry. The reports followed on the heels of several widely covered negative alcohol and health studies, the abandonment of a potentially historic controlled trial of moderate drinking and the ban of liquor at fraternities across the US. This has not been a good year for alcohol’s reputation, especially in the context of constant claims that marijuana is “safer than alcohol” as it becomes increasingly legal and available.
And then came the scrutiny of Brett Kavanaugh for a position on the US Supreme Court. Countless news (and other) accounts of his allegedly heavy drinking and his admission of liking beer specifically, put alcohol into an even more negative light. They also resonated with alcohol’s nasty role in numerous incidents that emerged from the #MeToo movement. None of this helps establish alcohol beverages as “part of a healthy lifestyle.” Nor does a potential positive and appropriate response to all of this from the industry suggest itself. Quite the contrary. A review of stories from just the last few days:
- “Tolerance Wanes on the Hard-Drinking Bros-Will-Be-Bros Culture” in the New York Times plumbed how that culture “has stubbornly persisted on high school and college campuses across America.” Even while colleges and prep schools attempt to reform bad behaviors, the culture endures, according to the author, because the behaviors lead to a “sense of belonging,” tradition, alumni attitudes and networking that results from those who have lived the bro culture: “There’s been social capital for being a bro,” one observer commented.
- “Many Teens Drink. Rich Ones Abuse It More Often” headlined a Washington Post article which suggested that affluence itself was a risk behavior for over-drinking, especially among high school and college students at expensive institutions. “When adults are sanguine about drunkenness and associated reprehensible behaviors among kids,” the author advises, “there are potentially serious consequences for the victims, for the perpetrators and for an entire generation of young people as they form their own values about what is decent, what is excusable and what will simply not be tolerated despite the power and prestige of their parents.”
- “Beer Blackouts and Bad Behavior: Key Facts Everyone Should Know About Alcohol” allowed a Forbes contributor to inform readers that alcohol: kills more people than opioids, costs the US $249 billion per year, “remains a problem in high school,” is linked to assault and “affects EVERY part of the body.”
- “Deadly Epidemic of Binge Drinking,” gave an opportunity to a Chattanooga Free Times reporter to ignore the data showing a sharp decline in binge drinking among youth but advocate for more education, reduced access, higher taxes, restrictions on advertising, and, again, a change in culture.