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Alcohol Issues Insights

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
Reactions to the announcement by the North American Interfraternity Council (NIC) to “prohibit hard alcohol from fraternity chapter facilities and events” continue to come in. (See September 7 Update.) The Washington Post weighed in with a news story and an editorial. The editors deemed the ban “a welcome step, even if it is long overdue.” They also pointed out that “hard liquor lets students get drunk faster; it has become a staple of dangerous hazing rituals and given rise to such high-risk behaviors as ‘pre-gaming.’” Yet, the ban is not a cure-all to underage drinking problems, the Post observes. “Beer, wine and malt beverages, all still allowed for those of age to drink them, also have the potential to be abused.“ That’s why even schools that have banned liquor have also adopted other measures to advance health and safety. Fraternities “would do well” to study other measures as well, the editors advise, without specifying any. The Post’s new story suggested that NIC, along with the National Panhellenic Conference, which represents 26 sororities, and several similar organizations, are all working with parents who have lost students in hazing incidents to broaden the scope of their efforts. Specifically, NIC’s president Judson Horras…

Publishing Info

  • Year 2018
  • Volume 35
  • Issue # 29
When the Distilled Spirits Council announced its new president – Chris Swonger, a government affairs veteran with Jim Beam and Allied Domecq – the distillers also decided to “amplify the impact of their collective work” on responsibility issues. They did this by naming Swonger to also head the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility (FAAR), more closely aligning the distillers’ chief advocacy group with its organization focused on responsible drinking programs/messages. Indeed, Swonger vowed to “vigorously promote moderation and responsibility, while advocating for market access, equal treatment and common-sense policies that enable the continued growth of the distilled spirits industry.” While public health advocates discount, if not sneer, at industry efforts to advance responsible drinking, Forbes ran a highly positive story on the move without questioning the distillers’ motivations. Not only did Forbes list a number of FAAR’s educational and research programs, developed with $300 million distillers committed since 1991, but added that the list “merely scratches the surface of the foundation’s non-judgmental, non-punitive, multi-pronged approach to combatting the potential dangers associated with alcohol.” On the brewer side, Heineken’s no-alcohol beer brand, Heineken 0.0, will be used front and center to further the company’s message of “Zero alcohol at the wheel”…

Publishing Info

  • Year 2018
  • Volume 35
  • Issue # 10
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 2019 Beer Marketer's Insights Seminar

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