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Alcohol Issues Insights

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
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…

Publishing Info

  • Year 2018
  • Volume 35
  • Issue # 31
Well-known alcohol researcher William Kerr and some colleagues from the Alcohol Research Group compared two sets of surveys to determine if and how much cannabis use changed in Washington after legalization of recreational use. A set of surveys performed in 2014 and 2015 − after the state legalized recreational use – found the “prevalence of use [among those age 18+] was found to have increased by 1.2 percentage points (from 24.3% to 25.6%.)” What’s more “none of the pre-post legalization differences were found to be statistically significant.” There were no significant changes in use in the past-year, weekly or more, less than weekly or use with or without alcohol. Kerr and colleagues compared this finding of an insignificant increase in cannabis use before and after legalization with reports by Washington residents of use in federal government surveys (in the National Survey on Drug Use and Health) over the same pre- and post-legalization period. In the government surveys, use would have been illegal in the early years. The NSDUH surveys suggest “an increase of about 20% in the prevalence of past-year marijuana use across legalization. Estimates of past-month use for the same period show a similar pattern of change.” Another much…

Publishing Info

  • Year 2018
  • Volume 35
  • Issue # 7
While public health advocates argue that higher average consumption rates lead to more alcohol-related problems, impaired driving fatalities have never been strongly linked to absolute alcohol consumption rates, at least not on a state-by-state basis. Safewise analyzed 2016 impaired driving fatalities per 100,000 population in each state from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Ranking the states from highest to lowest, NHTSA data shows a remarkable range in the rate per 100,000 population. Indeed, Montana’s 9.15 per 100,000 is 5.5X higher than New York’s 1.65. Interestingly, Utah has the 2d-lowest rate at 1.94, 17.5% higher than New York, where alcohol is significantly easier to access and taxed at a much lower rate. There are many other cultural, geographic and other differences between New York and Utah as well, yet they are 2 of only 3 states where the impaired fatality rate is less than 2 per 100,000. New Jersey is the 3d. If average alcohol consumption were specifically related to impaired fatality rates, you’d expect states with the lowest impaired fatality rates to also be among those with the lowest per capita consumption of absolute alcohol and vice versa, with the heaviest drinking states being among those with the highest…

Publishing Info

  • Year 2018
  • Volume 35
  • Issue # 8
“Alcohol’s health benefits hard to prove, but harms are easy to document,” proclaims an article that first appeared on the website The Conversation (“Academic rigor, journalistic flair”). The Associated Press picked it up and gave it much broader reach. Author Christina Mair from the University of Pittsburgh asked whether Americans’ “comfort with and acceptance of alcohol” should be as high as it is. Mair never directly answers the question, but implicitly she suggests: probably not. Why not? Two principal reasons. First, the purported health benefits of moderate drinking, including lower risk of cardiovascular disease, remain an “open question,” in her analysis. More importantly, “there are more alcohol-attributable deaths and a myriad of physical and social problems related to drinking, even at low levels, than any other substance.” A third theme: “Backed by a strong industry, alcohol’s dangers may be underplayed and its benefits exaggerated.” Mair’s article details those dangers and problems. Among them: Alcohol is involved with more deaths and problems than the much-discussed opioid epidemic. “Alcohol is the third leading cause of premature mortality in the US.” Drinking, “even at low levels,” is associated with “a number of cancers.” Alcohol “causes” many violence-related harms: child maltreatment, intimate partner violence,…

Publishing Info

  • Year 2018
  • Volume 35
  • Issue # 22
That question popped twice on the media radar in the last week. On May 30, an op-ed appeared in the Wall Street Journal titled “Dry the Friendly Skies.” A transportation consultant and frequent flier who “often” witnesses “disruption caused by excessive drinking,” called on the airlines to enact a ban “in the interest of themselves and their passengers.” If not, “Congress and the Federal Aviation Administration should do so – as they did with smoking.” Today, lifestyle site cheatsheet.com ran an article titled “Airplane Horror Stories Reveal Why Alcohol Shouldn’t Be Served on Airline Flights.” In addition to a number of gory, detailed stories, the author claimed that reports of intoxicated passengers to the International Air Transport Association rose sharply over the last decade, from 500 in 2007 to 6,000 in 2016, 8,000 in 2017. While airlines “haven’t done much to make a change,” the British government is considering fines on intoxicated fliers and packaging requirements to stop fliers from opening duty-free alcohol on planes.

Publishing Info

  • Year 2018
  • Volume 35
  • Issue # 17
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 2019 Beer Insights Spring Conference

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The 2019 Beer Insights Spring Conference will be held in Chicago, on Wednesday, May 15th to Thursday, May 16th
at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel.