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Alcohol Issues Insights

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
While the annual Monitoring the Future Surveys continue to show significant, steady declines in drinking among junior- and senior high school students in the US, trends among college students and other young adults age 19-28 are much more varied. For example, the table below shows that while drinking during the previous month declined modestly among college students from 2001 to 2011, it increased slightly among all young adults age 19-28. (Not that there's anything wrong with that, since the vast, vast majority of those in the latter sample are legal age. 30-Day Use 2001 2006 2011 % Chg 01-11* College 67.0 65.4 63.5 -5.2 YA (19-28) 67.0 68.7 68.8 2.7 Been Drunk (30 days) College 44.7 47.6 39.9 -10.7 YA 36.8 42.1 39.5 7.3 Flavored Alc Bevs (30 days) College 26.2 29.5 12.6 YA 24.9 23.8 -4.4 5+Drinks in a Row (2 Wks) College 40.9 40.2 36.1 -11.7 YA 35.9 37.6 36.5 1.7 Daily Drinking College 4.7 4.8 3.8 -19.1 YA 4.4 5.4 5.2 18.2 Daily Pot Smoking College 4.5 4.3 4.7 4.4 YA 5.0 5.0 6.1 22.0 *For flavored alc bevs, trend is for 2006-2011 Similarly, rates of daily drinking, so-called "binge" drinking and getting drunk (at least once…

Publishing Info

  • Year 2012
  • Volume 29
  • Issue # 7
The Ledermann theory that average consumption rates help determine problem-drinking rates, and that alcohol policy should aim to reduce average consumption, still has its adherents among public health officials here and abroad. But the data continue to belie this theory, suggesting that drinking cultures and drinking patterns should be the focus of prevention. Three recent developments support a focus on culture vs. average consumption: recent drinking data from the UK, findings from a recent Finnish survey and a study of drinking habits in four Euro cities. As we noted in the last update, a recent survey of drinking habits in Great Britain shows significant decreases in average consumption, even while reports of increasing alcohol problems, especially among youth, continue to raise alarm, draw attention and will result in some new alcohol policy measures (see below). The table below shows that average consumption in Great Britain dropped from 14.3 units per week in 2005 to 11.5 units, a nearly 20% decline. Average Weekly Alcohol Consumption (Units) Age 2005 2010 % Change 16-24 16.9 11.1 -34.3 25-44 15.1 12.2 -19.2 45-64 16.0 13.1 -18.1 65+ 8.7 8.1 -6.9 Total 14.3 11.5 -19.6 Significantly, given the concern about youth drinking there, average consumption…

Publishing Info

  • Year 2012
  • Volume 29
  • Issue # 3
The virtual elimination of alcohol energy drinks from store shelves did not end state attorney generals’ interest in alcohol policy. State AGs will continue their efforts to “curb youth access” to alcohol. That was one of several takeaways from Washington State AG and current president of the National Association of AGs Rob McKenna’s talk to the Center for Alcohol Policy symposium recently. While not detailing future actions or recommending specific policies, he made several “concerns” very clear. They include: • High-alcohol, single-serve flavored malt beverages in large containers, dubbed “super-sized alcopops” by other folks on CAP agenda (see September 9 Update). McKenna asked “what is the message sent?” by having “cheap packages” of these products in “every gas station and c-store.” Will Washington take specific action on high-alcohol single-serves? “It’s not clear,” McKenna said, though there’s some interest along those lines. Legislation like that is difficult to obtain, he suggested, and perhaps “more time needs to pass” before legislators see the need for action. He has “encouraged” the liquor control board to “step up.” • “Unprecedented levels of youth exposure to alcohol marketing.” Evidence suggests marketing exposure “speeds up onset” of youth drinking and increases consumption of those who have…

Publishing Info

  • Year 2011
  • Volume 28
  • Issue # 9
For years, public health advocates have insisted higher excise taxes will reduce both overall consumption and alcohol problems. Meanwhile, industry members and some researchers have argued that alcohol beverages are relatively “inelastic” (higher prices don’t significantly reduce consumption) and that heavy drinkers/problem drinkers especially are unlikely to be deterred by higher taxes. A new study of US Government surveys strongly supports the industry’s position. Looking at drinking rate data from the federal Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) surveys from 1984-2009 and federal/ state beer excise taxes (a proxy for overall alcohol taxes), the authors tried to tease out the effects of tax rates among different races and among light, moderate and heavy drinkers. They made three broad conclusions: • Most important: “For all races/ethnicities, the estimated tax effects on consumption are large and significant among light drinkers (1-40 drinks per month), but shrink considerably for moderate drinkers (41-99) and heavy drinkers (100+).” In fact, the authors wrote: “We cannot reject [that] alcohol consumption of the latter types is unresponsive to tax changes.” Translated, it is very possible, perhaps likely, that tax changes have no effect on moderate to heavy drinkers, those most likely to experience alcohol-related problems. • “The…

Publishing Info

  • Year 2011
  • Volume 28
  • Issue # 8
The findings of a recently-published Finnish study support previous research that light/moderate drinking may reduce risks for cognitive impairment. Recall, INSIGHTS reported a Norwegian study in August 2010 that linked light-moderate wine and beer consumption to better cognitive performance after 7 years of follow up. The Finnish study followed patients for over 20 years. It found that both lifelong abstention and heavy consumption significantly increased the risks of cognitive impairment, as did binge drinking and "passing out" experiences. The Norwegian study had found that abstainers "had significantly worse cognitive performance" compared to light drinkers. In the Finnish study, light drinkers (0-3 drinks/week) were the baseline group. Lifelong abstainers had approximately 2X the risk for cognitive impairment after an average of 23 years follow-up compared to light drinkers. Heavy drinkers (>7 drinks/week for women, >14 drinks/week for men) also had double the risk. Moderate drinkers had the lowest risk of later cognitive impairment, about 13% lower than light drinkers, in fact. Those who binged (5+ drinks at least monthly) also had elevated risks, regardless of their overall consumption. Similarly, those who said they'd passed out due to excessive drinking more than twice in a given year, had quadruple the risk for…

Publishing Info

  • Year 2011
  • Volume 28
  • Issue # 1