"Beer Serves America" release ignores harm & costs

August 12, 2015

beer serves america
The Beer Institute and National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA) released their annual "Beer Serves America" press package, associating the product they produce and sell with economic activity, tax revenue, and jobs. However, public health policy research and experts advise otherwise.

A few items not contained in the beer industry's legislative and media campaign: Alcohol-related harm and how much it costs taxpayers, youth, and communities.

Excessive alcohol consumption cost the United States $223.5 billion, or about $1.90 per drink, in 2006. That's $746 for every man, woman, and child in the U.S. - and a conservative one. Direct costs to government were $94.2 billion (42%). Immediate and chronic medical care, emergency services, law enforcement, criminal justice, and job productivity are all negatively impacted.

About 76% of the total costs were due to binge drinking. Beer accounts for two-thirds of all alcohol consumed by binge drinkers, and for the most alcohol consumed by those at greatest risk for causing or incurring alcohol-related harm.

Excessive drinking accounted for 1 in 10 deaths among working-age adults age 20-64 years, and shortened those lives by about 30 years. Nearly 70% of deaths from excessive drinking involved working-age adults, and about 70% involved males

In addition, the U.S. beer excise tax has lost 45% of its value since it was last changed in 1990. But the campaign(s) continue pushing for beer excise tax reductions for various segments of the industry - there are currently 3 federal proposals to reduce beer taxes that offer the Beer Institute and NBWA opportunity to lobby and influence legislators. Anheuser-Busch InBev (Beer Institute member) spent $3.68 million lobbying in 2014. Beer Institute spent more than $2.1 million, and NBWA spent $1.28 million, lobbying - mostly on beer taxes.

What those lobbyists won't share at their meetings and socials is that the beer industry's economic lens is out of focus. Whether it's called Big Beer or craft, or both, beer is a major player in alcohol harm and related costs to taxpayers. Where are those numbers in the describing beer's economic impact?