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Alcohol Issues Insights

Just as Alcohol Justice and other public health advocates noted the attempt to reduce federal excise taxes on beer, wine and spirits and criticized that effort (see last Update), public health is taking note of state initiatives to reform laws and regulations. And they want to provide input.  In Massachusetts, a task force created by state Treasurer Deborah Goldberg has begun its review of all of the state’s alcohol beverage laws.  The task force itself includes mostly attorneys without links to the industry, though the Boston Globe reports that there will be “advisory committees” of industry members to provide input.  Public health wants the same.   One reason such regulatory reviews have had limited success in the past is that once the law is opened up, the possibility of unwanted outcomes and unintended consequences increases.

Publishing Info

  • Year 2017
  • Volume 34
  • Issue # 20
Just as sponsors of Utah’s reduction of the legal BAC for driving to 0.05 aren’t budging on the law or the limit (see May 22 Update), nor is the American Beverage Institute backing off its very public criticism of the change.  In addition to ads running in Utah media, ABI is also running full-page ads in neighboring states featuring a mug shot of a woman with the text “Utah: Come for vacation, leave on probation,” reports the LA Times.  More ads are reportedly on the way targeting tourists to think twice before vacationing in Utah.  “Our ad isn’t provocative,” said ABI’s Sarah Longwell.  “It’s the truth. What they are doing is provocative.”   Tourism is an estimated $8.1 billion industry in Utah and the director of the state’s Office of Tourism  acknowledges ABI’s ads “could have some impact.  There is no question.”  Recall, Governor Gary Herbert said he’d support tweaks to the law to prevent “unintended consequences.”  And there has been talk of making driving between 0.05 and 0.07 BAC an “infraction” rather than  a DUI charge.  That’s still a possibility, as is repeal, since the law does not go into effect until December 31, 2018. What’s More Dangerous in the…

Publishing Info

  • Year 2017
  • Volume 34
  • Issue # 19
Economic, scientific and legal nitty-gritty needed to discuss excise taxes or heart health all point to the particular thorniness of alcohol policy. But the gruesome details of Timothy Piazza’s death in a hospital near Penn State University, following injuries sustained during a hazing-driven night of heavy drinking, cut a few levels deeper. Those details became public as national news when a grand jury ruled Piazza’s death “the direct result of encouraged reckless conduct” early this month. Eighteen members of the now-banned Penn State chapter of Beta Theta Pi fraternity face criminal charges, including 8 for involuntary manslaughter. Responses to the specifics of this case and these charges reveal it as not just an indictment of 18 college students, but of hazing and fraternity culture itself. But it doesn’t stop there. “For anyone looking across the national landscape, you realize that we have a national problem that is associated with excessive drinking,” Penn State president Eric Barron said following the grand jury report. Barron’s comment reads as part deflection, part undeniable truth. College drinking rates across the US, including for binge drinking and other indicators of dangerous consumption patterns, remain stubbornly high. Turn momentarily to Whiteclay, Nebraska, where state regulators recently…

Publishing Info

  • Year 2017
  • Volume 34
  • Issue # 5
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
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