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Alcohol Issues Insights

Just as public health researchers/advocates apply familiar arguments regarding negative effects of pot availability (see last Update), alcohol excises taxes and movie placements continue to attract their attention.  Actually, resistance from public health to the industry-wide attempt to reduce federal excise taxes on beer, wine and spirits – via the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act – has been relatively muted so far.  But Alcohol Justice and the Center of Alcohol Marketing and Youth have taken note.  Interestingly, they recently targeted the proposed tax break for vintners, who traditionally escape the advocates’ wrath, more often directed toward brewers and distillers.  But “Tax Break for High-Alcohol Wine Sours Health Advocates,” fairwarning.org headlined earlier this week. The article quotes veteran public health advocates from the aforementioned groups, Michael Scippa and David Jernigan, respectively.  They (and others) criticize the proposed tax bill for reducing the federal tax on wine over 16% ABV from the current level of $1.57 per gallon to $1.07 per gallon, the same rate currently assessed on wines of 14% or lower ABV.  The proposal “has health advocates seeing red,” the investigative reporting organization could not resist noting.   Indeed, “overnight, people would have about 18% more alcohol in the…

Publishing Info

  • Year 2017
  • Volume 34
  • Issue # 16
It’s not only teens who are less likely to drink these days.  Annual surveys from Mediamark Research also show a notable, if not drastic, dropoff in the percentage of young legal-age millennials who say they drink alcohol beverages compared to five years ago.  Just over 61% of all adults said they were drinkers in the fall of 2016, defined as having consumed in the 6 months prior to the survey.  That’s virtually unchanged since 2011 (61.2% in 2016 vs 61.4% in 2011).  It’s also very close to the 64% of adults that Gallup consistently reports who “have occasion to drink.” But among 21-24 yr-olds, the percentage who drank fell from 68.3% to 63.2% over the same period.  Population growth meant that the industry added about 300,000 new drinkers over this period in this age group.  But if the same percentage had held, there would have been 900,000 more entry-level drinkers. A broader view of millennials, all those born between 1977 and 1994, shows that 65.2% of them were drinkers in 2016, down slightly from 66.5% in 2011.  Again, if the same percentage had held, there would have been 1 mil more millennial drinkers in 2016.  The lack of change in…

Publishing Info

  • Year 2017
  • Volume 34
  • Issue # 4
The recent increase in highway deaths is not limited to drivers and occupants.  Pedestrian fatalities have increased even more sharply, up an estimated 11% in 2016 (final figures not yet available), following an increase in 2015 too.  Indeed, total pedestrian fatalities are up 25% since 2010, according to research by Sam Schwartz Transportation Consultants, noted by the Wall Street Journal. That’s while total traffic fatalities rose about 6% during the same period.  At the same time, pedestrian fatalities rose from 11% of total highway deaths in 2006 to 15% in 2015.  Total miles travelled have not increased as sharply.  And there’s no sign of an increase in drunk driving.  Why the increase in deaths? “Researchers say they think the biggest factor may be more drivers and walkers distracted by cellphones and other electronic devices, although that is hard to confirm,” WSJ wrote.   Other observers have said the same, though most of the reports have been anecdotal.  Some data is beginning to emerge.  Indeed, a study by Cambridge Mobile Telematics “found that, in most crashes, distracted driving plays a role,” AOL.com reported recently.  The study found that in 52% of hundreds of thousands of crashes reviewed, “drivers had been on their…

Publishing Info

  • Year 2017
  • Volume 34
  • Issue # 12
A study of nearly 2 mil UK adults published last week in the British Medical Journal found that non-drinkers had significantly higher risks than moderate drinkers, 23-33% higher in fact, for coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease.  At the same time, non-drinkers had higher rates of all-cause mortality than moderate drinkers and occasional drinkers.   Moderate drinkers did not have lower risks for every one of the 12 specific conditions investigated, the authors point out.   But they did for most and for the most common ones.  Heavier drinkers had higher risks for many of the specific cardiovascular diseases than non-drinkers, though still lower risks for myocardial infarction and angina. The conclusion of this “most comprehensive study to date of the relation between alcohol consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease,” as the authors called it, is basically the same as many previous studies covered over the years in Alcohol Issues INSIGHTS: light/moderate drinkers have lower risk for several significant cardiovascular diseases than abstainers.  Indeed, in an editorial comment in the same issue of the British Medical Journal, Harvard’s Kenneth Mukamal points out that the new study supports work from “over four decades ago,” by Dr. Arthur Klatsky in California and “does not…

Publishing Info

  • Year 2017
  • Volume 34
  • Issue # 11
The new UK study received extensive coverage in the UK press, more sporadic attention in the US.  Most journalists included both the major findings and the authors’ reluctance to advise drinking for health reasons.  One prominent observer of alcohol policy issues, whose work we’ve cited on several occasions, Christopher Snowdon, could not resist.  The columnist for The Spectator, research fellow for UK’s Institute of Economic Affairs and self-proclaimed critic of the Nanny State asked and answered a pertinent question about this “latest in a long line of studies stretching over 5 decades”: Why won’t public health admit that moderate drinking is good for the heart?  Two reasons, Snowdon explains: 1) “the public health lobby fears that non-drinkers will become alcoholics if they are advised to have a glass of wine. Put simply, they don’t trust us”;   2) many public health campaigners “think that alcohol is the new smoking and want to co-opt the ‘no safe level’ slogan that’s worked so well in the war on tobacco.”  This helps explain why the study’s authors and public health officials stress that diet and exercise are safer ways to reduce cardiovascular risks. Snowdon also explains why public health’s stance matters.  “It matters because…

Publishing Info

  • Year 2017
  • Volume 34
  • Issue # 3
The Utah legislature passed a law Wednesday lowering the legal BAC limit for driving from 0.08 to 0.05, reports AP and others.  Gov. Gary Herbert has expressed support for the measure.  Other supporters of the Utah legislation claim it will save lives and make the argument that impairment “begins with the first drink,” as we’ve reported.  The American Beverage Institute’s (ABI) Sarah Longwell pointed out that over 3/4 of alcohol-related highway deaths, in UT and elsewhere, involve drivers with BACs of 0.15 and above.  A BAC limit of 0.05, ABI also argues, punishes responsible drinkers and will “do almost nothing in the effort to reduce traffic fatalities,” as less than 1% of fatalities involve drivers between 0.05 and 0.08, ABI’s Rick Berman pointed out in an op-ed published by Washington Times on Feb 28.  Longwell and Berman also note that a 150-lb male reaches 0.05 at two beers, a 120-lb female could be there after a single drink.  A 0.05 bill “recently died” in Hawaii, but Washington’s bill remains alive, reports Chicago Tribune. Meanwhile, some local government officials in England and Wales are advocating to reduce legal BACs there to 0.05, following Scotland’s adoption of the lower limit.  In a…

Publishing Info

  • Year 2017
  • Volume 34
  • Issue # 9
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