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Alcohol Issues Insights

As a number of states in US consider lowering the legal BAC for driving to 0.05, The Washington Times gave long-time restaurant lobbyist and anti-0.05 advocate Rick Berman an opportunity to lay out his key arguments against the policy. They are: Most drunk driving fatalities involve high BAC levels. “The latest federal data puts the average BAC of a drunk driver involved in a fatal crash…at 0.18.” A BAC of 0.05 “does not meaningfully hinder one’s ability to drive” and is “far less impairing than talking on a hands-free cellphone.” The alleged “deterrent effect” of lower BAC levels adopted in Europe are based on flawed studies. That’s especially true of an oft-cited meta-analysis of 37 studies by veteran researcher James Fell. None of those studies, Berman notes, used a control group, some only looked at lowering levels from 0.10 to 0.08 (not the effects of 0.05), others only looked at impacts on young drivers. Some were adopted at the same time as random roadside breath tests. “A 120-lb woman can reach 0.05 BAC with little more than a single drink.” More appropriate policy than 0.05, in Berman’s view, would be: 1) “more saturation and roving patrols that catch drunk drivers…

Publishing Info

  • Year 2019
  • Volume 36
  • Issue # 14
After years of focusing mostly on ignition interlocks to reduce drunk driving, and notably avoiding advocacy of most alcohol policy issues, including whether states should adopt 0.05 BAC levels for driving, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), is taking a more public stance once again, though so far not as strident as in the past. As we noted in our March 25 Update, MADD’s national president appeared with a Michigan state representative to support his 0.05 legislation. Last week, MADD’s New York State director told Rochester First: that at 0.08 “you have about 4 alcoholic beverages and you’re considered drunk…you’re impaired.” But he was not explicitly quoted in support of the bill now in the NY Assembly to lower the legal BAC for driving to 0.05. And MADD New York’s website does not comment on 0.05 or the bill. Meanwhile, a press release announcing a “Community Rally“ in Los Angeles last week to support a bill in the California Assembly did not include MADD among the 17 public health/advocacy groups in the LA Drug and Alcohol Policy Alliance which held the rally. But the release includes MADD along with Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, the National Safety Council and the…

Publishing Info

  • Year 2019
  • Volume 36
  • Issue # 13
Population and sales data suggest that per capita absolute alcohol consumption changes little in the US over time, regardless of changes in demographics or the “4 Ps” that public health advocates aim to restrict or control: product, price, place, promotion. As AII has repeatedly noted, per capita adult absolute alcohol consumption remained stable at about 2.5 gallons for the last 20 or more years. That’s despite an explosion of new products, pricing that has made alcohol more affordable, vastly expanded availability and increased promotion, whether in traditional or social media. But what about the smaller subset of drinkers? Are drinkers drinking more or less than they were a decade ago? This data is difficult to come by and not terribly reliable given the amount of underreporting that occurs. Indeed, Gallup Polls consistently report that American drinkers average but 4 drinks/week, far less than the average of 2+ per day that sales data would suggest. Just as the Monitoring the Future Surveys suggest that at least younger people are drinking less heavily than in the past (see October AII), the annual National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) also indicates that drinkers are in fact drinking less than they were a decade ago.…

Publishing Info

  • Year 2018
  • Volume 35
  • Issue # 12
As industry members seek to extend the federal excise tax break on beer, wine and spirits next year, the “alcohol tax debate” continues to simmer. Vox, a website that “explains the news,” took a lengthy look at “the case for raising the alcohol tax” last week, coming down firmly on the side that “it’s time to raise the alcohol tax.” Author German Lopez makes many familiar points. First, he cites the 88,000 annual deaths from “excessive drinking” in the US, a death toll higher than “deaths due to guns, cars, drug overdoses, or HIV/AIDs ever have been in a single year in America.” Then come numerous citations to research and quotations of researchers that make “a tax hike one of the most evidence-based ideas in alcohol policy.” Indeed, “the literature is really overwhelming,” offers veteran researcher-advocate Alex Wagenaar. Similar claims about studies that purportedly show tax increases lead to declines in alcohol-related problems are provided by Traci Toomey, (University of Minnesota), David Roodman (Open Philanthropy), Mark Kleiman (Marron Institute), William Kerr (Alcohol Research Group) and others. Alcohol taxes may hit lower-income drinkers more harshly than higher income drinkers, Lopez acknowledges, but they could also “produce disproportionate benefits” for lower income…

Publishing Info

  • Year 2018
  • Volume 35
  • Issue # 39
As the US government launches its next foray into Dietary Guidelines, the global debate over appropriate levels continues, especially in the UK and Europe. ”There is no safe drinking,” veteran alcohol researcher/ advocate Jurgen Rehm told the European Alcohol Policy Conference in Edinburgh recently. In remarks widely covered in the UK press, Prof. Rehm focused on cancer risk: “If you have a substance which can cause cancer, then it’s basically roulette. With every drink, you have a chance of cancer.” When thinking of limits, “one drink a day, that’s what the science says, I’m sorry,” Rehm said. And that’s a UK drink, 8 grams of alcohol, about a half-pint of regular lager. (In the US, a drink is 14 grams of alcohol.) Recall, the current UK guidance is 14 units/week; Rehm believes it should be 7 units/ week. Among his policy recommendations, Rehm said “the big ammunition is using price policy, like taxation and things like that.” Minimum unit pricing in Scotland, he expects, “is going to have a significant impact,” though it’s too early to measure results. Alcohol consumption reportedly increased this past summer in Scotland after minimum prices were adopted, though most observers attributed that to especially hot…

Publishing Info

  • Year 2018
  • Volume 35
  • Issue # 11
No end to glitches as Canada launched legal recreational cannabis use October 17. Here are some: Supply is Short Virtually every province, regardless of how it set up distribution, reported “rampant supply shortages” early on, according to AP. Many stores sold out quickly, government shops announced they’d close several days of the week, consumers who ordered online (i.e. in the biggest province Ontario, where no retail outlets will open until April) faced long waits. Anecdotally, there’s already been a return to the black market. “The producers keep saying there will be some bumps in the road, but right now it’s not a bump in the road. It’s a big pothole,” one store owner told AP. It’s not just finished product. Those seeking to grow their own face a shortage of seeds, as well, The Globe and Mail reports today. As a result, “some illegal cannabis seed vendors are reporting big spikes in sales since recreational cannabis was legalized last month, driven by the lack of legal seed supply outside of the medical-marijuana system.”Public Health is Outraged “What the hell is our government thinking?” So asks an addictions counselor in the New York Times this morning, noting that “it’s been proven…

Publishing Info

  • Year 2018
  • Volume 35
  • Issue # 35
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 2019 Beer Marketer's Insights Seminar

★ANNOUNCING★
The 2019 Beer Insights Seminar will be held in New York City, on Sunday evening, November 17th to Monday, November 18th at Convene.