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Alcohol Issues Insights

While leading public health advocates at the recent Alcohol Policy 17 meeting dismissed the notion of any cooperation with the industry, the Responsible Retailing Forum (RRF) remains a bastion of collaboration to reduce/prevent alcohol-related problems.  RRF’s Annual Forum in Boston last week included rare comingling of industry (represented by each of 3 tiers), regulators, enforcement, academics, researchers and even a public health advocate or two to explore areas of mutual concern and potential collaboration.  Industry miscues are not ignored, but nor is industry excluded from debate and problem solving.  The wide-ranging program included a fascinating discussion of e-cigarettes/vaping where speakers charged that public health advocates and the federal government are seriously misrepresenting research to follow their own anti-tobacco company policy agendas.  Some of the parallels to alcohol policy debates were striking.  (Elsewhere, Reuters just ran a long article exploring criticisms of the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a WHO arm that has deemed alcohol a “known carcinogen,” but doesn’t really measure the critical issue of risk levels.  This leads to confusion and misleads consumers, experts believe.)  Meanwhile, as if tackling sales to minors and service to intoxicated patrons isn’t enough, RRF has partnered with the International Town & Gown…

Publishing Info

  • Year 2016
  • Volume 33
  • Issue # 4
Chalk another one up for drink variability.  The question was prompted in at least one media outlet (Eureka Alert) after the release of a new study that sought to compile “standard drink measures and low-risk consumption guidelines for all the countries in the world” that do so.  Not surprisingly, the authors found significant variation in both measures. First, only about half of the 75 countries the authors identified that might define these measures actually do.   The “modal standard” they found did follow the World Health Organization’s drink definition of 10 grams of pure ethanol.  About half of the 37 countries that defined a standard drink use a 10-gram measure.  “But the variation was wide,” the authors found: from 8 grams (UK, Iceland, elsewhere) up to 20 grams (Austria).  The US is 14 grams, almost twice the UK level.  International researchers are constantly challenged to adjust their findings and language about “light” and “moderate” drinking from society to society because of these differences.  Then again, government “definitions” and actual pours/package sizes also vary significantly, as Beer Institute, many others and now the US Dietary Guidelines point out.   At the same time, “low risk guidance” (a loaded phrase in and of…

Publishing Info

  • Year 2016
  • Volume 33
  • Issue # 4
 There have been few studies of alcohol consumption among patients already suffering from Alzheimer's disease. But a new study from Denmark followed 321 patients diagnosed with mild Alzheimer's disease for 3 years and compared death rates between light/ occasional drinkers (the base group), abstainers, moderate drinkers (2-3/day) and heavier drinkers. (There were very few heavy drinkers, just 13.) The results showed a "reduced mortality for patients with moderate alcohol consumption." In fact, the moderate drinkers had a 77% lower risk of dying during the 3-year follow-up compared to the light/occasional drinkers. Neither the abstainers nor the heavier drinkers significantly increased or decreased mortality risk. Therefore, "an association that is suggestive of a protective effect between alcohol and mortality was seen only in the group of patients who had 2-3 units per day." Look at the risk reductions from another angle. If the moderate drinkers are used as the baseline, light/ occasional drinkers were 4.3X more likely to die over the 3-year period than the moderate drinkers, abstainers 3.5X more likely and the heavy drinkers 6.5X more likely. Results were controlled for gender, age, smoking, household status (living alone or with others), education, comorbidity factors and measures of both quality of…

Publishing Info

  • Year 2015
  • Volume 32
  • Issue # 12
Just as teen drinking rates continue to decline, so have self-reports of young people drinking and driving. A new report from the Centers for Disease control notes that “the prevalence of drinking and driving among high school students aged 16-19 years ... declined by 54% from 22.3% in 1991 to 10.3% in 2011.” That progress continued in more recent self-reported data, from national surveys in 2014. For example: “During 2002-2014, the prevalence of driving under the influence of alcohol alone significantly declined by 59% among persons aged 16-20 years (from 16.2% in 2002 to 6.6% in 2014).”  Among those 21-25 years old, the self-reported rate of driving under the influence of alcohol alone fell by 38% over the 12 years, from 29.1% to 18.1%. And despite the growing popularity (and legality) of marijuana, the “prevalence of driving under the influence of alcohol and marijuana combined significantly declined by 39%”among both age groups. Very few young adults admit to driving under the influence of both alcohol and pot, less than 2%. Then too, the prevalence of driving under the influence of marijuana alone also fell during this period. Meanwhile, The US Supreme court will “weigh whether states can make it a…

Publishing Info

  • Year 2015
  • Volume 32
  • Issue # 12
The recently released Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) will be taken into consideration by the Departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture.  The federal agencies will decide whether or not to change the 2010 Dietary Guidelines.  The Committee hopes the report will help the agencies develop a “culture of health” in the US, stating that “dramatic paradigm shifts are needed” to help Americans make better dietary and lifestyle choices to improve health.  As far as alcohol is concerned, the Committee does not seem to have strayed from the advice/ comments of its predecessors or come to any dramatic new conclusions.  “The overall body of evidence” DGAC reviewed “identifies that a healthy dietary pattern is higher” in some components, like fruits, vegetables and whole grains and “moderate in alcohol (among adults).”  More specifically, the expert committee “confirmed” that “moderate alcohol intake can be a component of a healthy dietary pattern” but should be consumed only by adults, and that “it is not recommended” that anyone start drinking or to drink more often for “potential health benefits.” Why not?  “Because moderate intake also is associated with increased risk of violence, drowning and injuries from falls and…

Publishing Info

  • Year 2015
  • Volume 32
  • Issue # 2
Annual surveys of first-year college students confirm the findings of several national surveys of high school students. They all document a significant long-term decline in drinking among Americans of this age. The American Freshman: National Norms reports from UCLA (CIRP/HERI) show the same double-digit declines in drinking over the last decade as the Monitoring the Future and other national surveys do. And the Freshman Survey also shows a sharp increase in the percentage of students who did not party during their senior year in high school and a sharp decline in the percentage who partied heartily (3+ hours per week) during that final year. Finally, the surveys also indicate that, contrary to popular opinion, beer is less popular than wine/spirits among college freshmen. The 2014 survey of over 153,000 students showed that 33.5% of college freshman reported drinking beer occasionally or frequently during their final year of high school. That was down 26.4% over the last decade, 15% over the last five years. The percentage of freshmen who drank wine or spirits fell by a similar 25.4%, over the last decade. The same students were asked how many hours they typically spent partying per week during their senior year. The…

Publishing Info

  • Year 2015
  • Volume 32
  • Issue # 2