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Alcohol Issues Insights

For decades, public health activists have targeted beer ads for ubiquity, specific messages they find offensive, alleged appeal to youth and more. Their efforts to restrict ads and/or alter the messaging consistently fail in the courts (often due to 1st Amendment issues), before legislatures and, we'd submit, in the court of public opinion. The US Federal Trade Commission has supported and praised self-regulation in this area, even while suggesting tweaks to voluntary ad codes. The Beer Institute, Distilled Spirits Council and Wine Institute code review boards receive very few complaints and very rarely find ads that violate the codes, yet another sign that self-regulation works. Even the most vocal critics refrain from making complaints to these boards about specific ads, likely knowing they have no case and not wishing to become part of a process that so clearly works. (Note: this same article appeared in our INSIGHTS Express letter.) Case in point. Between January 2014 and June 2016, Beer Institute got a grand total of 2 complaints about beer ads. Both involved AB Super Bowl ads for Bud Light, one in 2014 and one in 2016. Reading the extensive report prepared by BI's 3-member review board shows they meticulously analyzed…

Publishing Info

  • Year 2016
  • Volume 33
  • Issue # 7
Like other national surveys, the annual Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance (YRBS) data shows significant dropoffs in youth drinking rates over the long term (See June 13 AII Update). YRBS data also indicate what's been happening with other teen behaviors, including tobacco and drug use, driving, dating and more. This broader view puts drinking trends, and perhaps policy priorities, into context. Below are some comparisons between 2015 YRBS findings - measured in the percentage of those in grades 9 thru 12 reporting the activities ? and those of a decade earlier. The recent, ongoing progress made in reducing youth drinking is even more remarkable when compared to the lack of progress in reducing other risky behaviors: marijuana use, tobacco use, suicide attempts and experiencing physical/sexual violence. Perhaps the most impressive drinking stat of all is the decline in the number of students who say they started drinking before age 13. YRBS reports a dropoff of nearly one-third in this measure over the last decade alone. Many experts view delaying onset of drinking as a critical prevention goal. The tobacco figures are tricky because vaping, not measured in 2005, has become so popular. Excluding vaping, there is also a significant drop in…

Publishing Info

  • Year 2016
  • Volume 33
  • Issue # 6
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