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Alcohol Issues Insights

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
One key pillar of public health advocates’ attacks on industry marketing: self-regulation is not only suspect on its face (given the industry’s profit motive) but both self-serving and “ineffective.”  Those charges received both explicit and implicit support in a pair of new studies (detailed in February issue of Alcohol Issues INSIGHTS).  Just as predictably, Thomas Babor and one of his co-authors of the US study took to the pages of The Conversation for an article later picked up by Huffington Post that charged “alcohol companies used controversial marketing in their 2017 Super Bowl Commercials.” In shades of the 1990s, Babor and his colleague ripped into the return of Spuds Mackenzie for one of AB’s Bud Light ads.  They also criticized a Yellow Tail  commercial which “prominently featured a humanized kangaroo. . .which was the subject of sexually suggestive language.”  They could not resist the comparison to Joe Camel (of course) and considered the ads violations of self-regulatory guidelines (of course).  The authors pointed to a study that concluded “teens who could recall ads with a ‘party’ theme which conveys positive emotions, were four times more likely to binge drink.”  In a bizarre twist, they suggested: “That may explain why a…

Publishing Info

  • Year 2017
  • Volume 34
  • Issue # 2
Proposed excise tax hikes emerged in two more states in recent weeks.  Neither is modest.  Indeed, a pair of New Mexico legislators aim to make that state’s excise taxes the highest in the US.  They introduced bills in the House and Senate to raise the beer tax from 41 cents/gallon to $3.08 (a 7.5-fold jump), the liquor tax from $1.60/liter to $7.24, (a 4.5-fold hike) and the wine tax from 45 cents/liter to $2.14 (4.8-fold increase), reports the Sun News.  House Representative Joanne Ferrary called it a “win-win for our state budget and the health and safety of our residents.”  Back east, West Virginia’s Gov. Jim Justice proposed a “Save Our State” (SOS) budget, according to The Register-Herald, with $450.15 million in new taxes.  They include raising the beer tax from $5.50/bbl to $8 and increasing the wholesale liquor markup from 28% to 32%.  The governor claims to “hate tax increases.  I hate them,” but feels his plan is “the most painless way” to escape the state’s budget problems.  How serious is he about supporting his plan?  “I’m telling you, if you don’t do this you’re dead.  You’re dead.  You’re dead beyond belief.” In the UK, Christopher Snowdon, a journalist…

Publishing Info

  • Year 2017
  • Volume 34
  • Issue # 7
As state legislators return to work and governors face budget shortfalls, alcohol taxes and alcohol policy are much in the news.   At least three alcohol tax hikes were proposed in recent weeks.  Ohio Governor John Kasich included a penny/drink wine and beer tax increase last week, in an attempt to “reflect inflation since the last increase in 1992,” reports the Toledo Blade.  Earlier, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback proposed doubling the sales tax on alcohol from 8% to 16%.  And a Wyoming House Committee passed a bill that would increase wine taxes from 28 cents/gallon to 72 cents/gallon, liquor taxes from 94 cents/gallon to $3.73/gallon and beer taxes from 2 cents/gallon to 20 cents/gallon.  The bill also earmarks 78% of the alcohol beverage tax revenue for education funding.   Meanwhile, on the federal level, sponsors of an across-the-board tax reduction on beer, wine and spirits excise taxes has been re-introduced in the new Congress. At the same time, broad alcohol regulation reviews are underway in several states.  A task force in Massachusetts will examine the state’s “antiquated” alcohol beverage laws, as state Treasurer Deborah Goldberg dubbed them.  One possibility: expanding the state’s alcohol beverage control commission’s mission to include marijuana regulation, reports…

Publishing Info

  • Year 2017
  • Volume 34
  • Issue # 5
That drinking alcohol enables and enhances sociability is no mystery to generations of alcohol producers, marketers and drinkers worldwide, not to mention anyone who has ever seen an episode of Cheers.  But it’s nice to have some science to support this obvious observation, especially when so many now cast doubt on other benefits of moderate drinking.  A group of researchers from Oxford University’s psychology department reviewed findings from a national survey of UK adults about their drinking habits and social connections, and two studies of on-premise drinking.  These studies compared behavioral reports and observations of drinkers in “locals” (small pubs) and large city-centre bars.  The basic questions they sought to answer: why did humans start drinking alcohol and why they “continue to use it so widely,” despite the negative consequences of overuse?  Their findings were predictably positive for social drinkers and especially for pub patrons.  Among the highlights: On measures of happiness, satisfaction with life, feelings of being worthwhile, connection to the local community and trust in other people, drinkers scored higher than non-drinkers across the board.  And those who frequented locals scored higher than those who frequented larger bars on several measures.  Drinkers who “have a ‘local’ that they…

Publishing Info

  • Year 2017
  • Volume 34
  • Issue # 1
Parents supplying alcohol to their young teens remains a controversial, but relatively common practice.  And just as a Canadian study recently found that early drinking experience may not in and of itself be a harbinger of later problems (unlike early drunkenness – see December newsletter) a new study from Australia found that children of parents who supply alcohol in the home are less likely to binge drink, and tend to drink less, than teens who get their alcohol from sources other than their parents.  The study followed 1,927 teens (average age 13 at the beginning of the study), over 4 years.    About 1/3 of the teens reported their parents supplied alcohol, the same as in other studies from the US, Europe and Australia, the authors found.  The key measures: consumption of “whole” drinks and rates of binge drinking in later years.  The key findings, after the results were adjusted for factors like parental consumption, parental monitoring, religiosity, household make-up (one parent, two parent, etc), personality and other factors: parental supply was strongly associated with drinking, but not with binge drinking or heavy drinking. Specifically: “Parental supply at any wave was associated with doubled odds of drinking at subsequent waves, but was…

Publishing Info

  • Year 2017
  • Volume 34
  • Issue # 2
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