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Alcohol Issues Insights

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
Just as drinking rates showed a rare increase among 10th and 12th graders in 2012, young adult drinking rates increased slightly as well, as reported by the national Monitoring the Future Surveys. These surveys continue to show that about 2/3 of college students and a larger pool of young adults (age 19-28) drink alcohol beverages at least once per month. And unlike drinking rates among high school students, which are down sharply long-term, monthly drinking rates among all young adults have changed little over the last 2 decades. But the rate for college students increased by a surprising 4.2 points in 2012 survey vs the previous year; the rate among young adults increased by 0.7 points. Interestingly, the just-released Gallup survey for 2013 found that the percentage of all adults (18+), who say they have "occasion to use alcoholic beverages" slipped to 60%, the lowest level since the mid-90s. Meanwhile, rates of being drunk at least once in the previous month ticked up 0.2 for college students in 2012 and ticked down 0.4 for young adults. That's a reversal of the 10-yr trend. Since 2002, the "been drunk" rate has fallen almost 10% among college students, while rising 5.4% among…

Publishing Info

  • Year 2013
  • Volume 30
  • Issue # 8
Drunk driving isn't the "hot" alcohol policy issue it was a decade or two ago, even with the recent recommendation by the National Transportation Safety Board to adopt a 0.5 BAC limit for drivers. Still, MADD remains active in the field, especially with its push for ignition interlocks, a solution that relies very heavily on technology to solve a very human failing. Elsewhere, technology is making it simpler for drinkers, as well as their friends, guardians and/or parents, to monitor BACs with the increasing availability of BAC-measuring devices that are affordable and at least reasonably accurate. But technology has its limits. The American Beverage Institute has repeatedly questioned the efficacy and wisdom of widespread interlock use, based on accuracy, privacy and other concerns. Then too, new handheld BAC devices may be (mis-) used by some to justify another drink rather than slowing down. The NY Times recently reviewed the technology behind these devices, as well as their limitations. How much has the technology changed? "A field once dominated by $10,000 machines owned only by police departments and requiring significant training is now filled with devices that cost as little as $30 and can hang from a keychain." Yet "safety experts"…

Publishing Info

  • Year 2013
  • Volume 30
  • Issue # 7
While the MTF data may suggest a pause in progress in reducing teen drinking in the US, another important measure, impaired driving fatalities on US roads, continues to decline. That figure decreased another 2.5% in 2011, NHTSA reported this week. The dropoff was slightly steeper than the overall decline of 1.9%, but the share of total fatalities that were alcohol-related - defined as crash deaths in accidents involving a driver with BAC of .08 or more - stayed basically the same at 31%. Alcohol-impaired fatalities declined for each vehicle type except for motorcycles in 2011. Long-term trends show remarkable progress in reducing total crash deaths per mile driven. That measure shows a decrease from nearly 7 deaths per million miles driven in the US in 1950 to 1.1 in 2012. Ref 2

Publishing Info

  • Year 2012
  • Volume 29
  • Issue # 12
Policymakers in the UK, and elsewhere, tend to view the alcohol industry as a monolithic group. The shared commitments announced at the October ICAP meeting suggest that large global producers are on the same page, at least regarding certain policy matters. But interviews with the major players from all sides of the UK business found some areas of disconnect and suggested policymakers would be well-served to understand different player's motivations to better shape policy debates. That's the conclusion of researchers from University of York and the London School of Hygiene and Topical Medicine. "It is widely believed that corporate actors exert substantial influence on the making of public health policy," they noted. To date, "there have been very few studies of the role of industry actors in the alcohol policy process," so researchers decided to interview alcohol reps from all sides of industry to get a sense of how key companies and trade associations function together. For this analysis, how alcohol industry "actors" acted with and against each other was limited "to the issue of pricing and promotions policy and related issues" and doesn't venture into differences between them on other issues. A total of 35 interviews were held between…

Publishing Info

  • Year 2012
  • Volume 29
  • Issue # 11
Once again, the annual Gallup Poll suggests that neither vast marketing investments nor ongoing policy tweaks have had much effect on Americans' overall drinking habits. About 2/3 of American adults (Gallup continues to ask those age 18+, presumably to maintain sample consistency) say they "have occasion to use alcoholic beverages." Using the 66% figure found in 2012, that has varied by more than the poll's 4-point margin of error only 4 times since 1985 and is approximately the same as it was in 1974, 1966, and 1945. At the same time, 22% of drinkers said they "sometimes drank too much." That was a notable spike from 17% in 2011, but very close to the average every other year since the mid-1990s, and again virtually the same as in 1978. (Oddly the figure had jumped up to 30-35% in the late 80s thru 1990.) Other constants: men are more likely to drink and drink more than women, white adults are more likely to drink than other races/ethnicities, beer remains more popular than wine or spirits and about 1/3 of drinkers say they had no drinks in the week prior to the survey. Gallup describes the rest, 2/3 of drinkers, 44% of…

Publishing Info

  • Year 2012
  • Volume 29
  • Issue # 8