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Alcohol Issues Insights

Recently released detail from the 2006 Monitoring the Future annual national surveys adds to the information available about youth alcohol preferences (see August AII). Fifteen-year trend data (not available for all products in each age group), shows a remarkably steady decline in the percentage of students in 8th, 10th and 12th grades who drink beer. Meanwhile, the percentage of high school seniors who drink wine increased slightly from 1991 to 1996, but subsequently declined. In contrast, the percentage of 12th graders who drink liquor increased from 1991 through 2001 and then declined slightly, but remained higher in 2006 than 15 years earlier. The dropoffs in beer consumption were especially sharp among the oldest students. From 1991 to 2006, the percentage of high school seniors who consumed beer (in the 30 days prior to the survey) fell from 47.2% to 35.5%, a dropoff in the rate of nearly one-quarter. There was a similar dropoff among 8th graders, a less steep drop among 10th graders. If you go back 30 years, the percentage of high school seniors who drink beer dropped by a remarkable 41%. (Some high school seniors were legal drinkers in 1976.) The percentage of high school seniors who drank…

Publishing Info

  • Year 2007
  • Volume 24
  • Issue # 9
Too often, neither policy nor public opinion follows science. Case in point: after decades of research linking moderate alcohol consumption to better heart health - and reduced risks for a number of common diseases - the public by and large continues to be unaware of this link. Just 22% of American adults think drinking in moderation (1-2 drinks/day) is "good for health," according to a July 2007 Gallup Poll. Half believe moderation "makes no difference" and 1/4 believe moderation is "bad for health." Those figures are barely changed since 2001 when Gallup first asked the question and the breakdown was 22%/46%/27%. (The remainder in each year is "no opinion.") The fact that a higher percentage of adults think moderate drinking is bad for health than positive is especially distressing, and yet another example that Americans' attitudes toward alcohol remain sharply divided. This year's Gallup Poll also found that about 2/3 of Americans drink alcohol, unchanged for a decade. Another constant: the vast majority of drinkers doesn't drink very often, or is unwilling to admit it. Only 1/3 of drinkers say they drink more than a few times per week. Only 14% of drinkers say they consume 1+ drink per day.…

Publishing Info

  • Year 2007
  • Volume 24
  • Issue # 8
Together with the Surgeon General's recent "Call to Action" on underage drinking, RAND's recommendations to SAMHSA and the OJJDP meeting in Orlando (see elsewhere in this issue), CDC's recent flurry of research activity suggests an up-tick in federal attention to alcohol policy issues. A new Centers for Disease Control study that found adult "binge" drinkers are much more likely to consume beer than spirits or wine got widespread media coverage last week. Associated Press, Reuters and numerous local print and electronic media covered the story. Using survey data from 14 states, CDC found that among those who said they'd consumed 5 or more drinks on at least one occasion in the 30 days prior to the survey, 74% said they mainly or exclusively drank beer, 17% said liquor and 9% said wine. That's while beer represents 55% of all alcohol consumed in the US (a number that's dropping) with liquor at 31%, wine 14%. The findings are supported by the latest Gallup Poll. Gallup found that among the 22% of drinkers who admit to "sometimes drinking more than you should," those who "most often" drank beer were more likely to say they drank too much on occasion. Almost 1/3 of…

Publishing Info

  • Year 2007
  • Volume 24
  • Issue # 8
Once again, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration made significant changes to data on highway crash deaths after its earlier projections. Back in May, NHTSA had projected a 0.3% decline in total crash deaths in 2006. More important, it then projected a significant 2.4% increase in alcohol-related traffic fatalities. But final figures announced in late July showed a 2% decline in total traffic fatalities, and just a 0.1% increase in alcohol-related fatalities. Then again, NHTSA revised its 2005 figures for at least the 2d time, so further revisions may yet emerge. In any case, it's clear that progress in reducing drunk driving, at least as measured by alcohol-related crash deaths, has stalled in recent years. That's likely to spur calls for more aggressive enforcement and other counter measures. Ignition interlock proposals are getting increased attention from industry members and policymakers alike. Indeed, as INSIGHTS went to press, Beer Institute and the National Beer Wholesalers Assn released a joint statement that voiced support for "mandatory use of ignition interlocks for offenders with repeat DWI convictions and for drivers convicted of drunk driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.15 or higher, even for a first time offense." Meanwhile, a recent…

Publishing Info

  • Year 2007
  • Volume 24
  • Issue # 7
Efforts by Middlebury College ex-president John McCardell to open the debate about lowering the minimum drinking age (see February INSIGHTS) have been getting some media traction. In recent weeks, Newsweek, Copley News Service, The Boston Globe and several radio stations have run stories/interviews that have aired McCardell's views that minimum age 21 drives drinking underground, encourages lawbreaking, denies the reality of young adult drinking, etc. The Boston Globe's lengthy June 2 article weighed the proposal from different perspectives, including well-known researchers Henry Wechsler and Ralph Hingson, who criticized the proposal, and Michael Haines, who embraced it. Predictably, MADD's chief executive Chuck Hurley also rejected the notion, and said McCardell is not a "good listener. He's like a dog with a bone." But Dartmouth's president agrees with McCardell: "Our students are adults, and they need to be treated as adults. Obviously there are a lot of abuses of alcohol. It's the abuses that need to be treated," James Wright told the Globe. Acknowledging that he's been called "a wacko or somebody who's tilting at windmills," McCardell keeps saying: "All I want is discussion." Copley News Service put the debate in the context of San Diego's large military population and the disconnect…

Publishing Info

  • Year 2007
  • Volume 24
  • Issue # 6
The basic goals of the Responsible Retailing Forum, which just convened its 5th annual national conference, are startlingly simple: stop sales of alcohol beverages (and tobacco) to: 1) underage buyers and 2) intoxicated patrons. But the task of identifying and spreading the appropriate methods, messages and mechanics of responsible retailing remains a complex challenge, given the dizzying array of retailers and "stakeholders" in the issue. RRF provides a true "forum"; FTC counsel Janet Evans called it "the organization to deal with these issues. . . a good think tank." In addition to some of the largest chain retailers in the US - Wal-Mart, 7-11, ExxonMobil, ConocoPhilips - RRF attracts federal and state government officials, enforcement and health agency personnel, researchers, suppliers and distributors. Each of the interested players brings different perspectives and insights, some aligned, some not. Once again, this year's forum raised more questions than answers as participants discussed the multiple legal, cultural and financial barriers to "Advancing the Art and Science of Responsible Retailing," the meeting's theme. Perhaps the thorniest issue of all is that while many national chains have clearly bought into responsible retailing - RRF's president Brad Krevor figures RRF represents about 10% of retail locations…

Publishing Info

  • Year 2007
  • Volume 24
  • Issue # 5