Good Riddance 2020 – Help Us Prevent Alcohol Harm in 2021

a covid martini, the official drink of 2020Dear Friends,

For many of us, 2020 has probably been the most difficult year of our lives. For many others, it’s also sadly been the final year of life. I am deeply sorry for this loss.

For those fighting for sobriety, it has been difficult to meet online. We see many states loosening up cocktails-to-go, expansion of bars into the sidewalks and streets, and home delivery services failing to do age checks. While alcohol use lowers immunity, Congress is toying with permanent alcohol tax cuts.

I’m proud of our work this year at Alcohol Justice. The COVID-19 pandemic forced us to reexamine our response to alcohol corporations and wimpy regulation and enforcement. The battles to reduce the many harms from this most dangerous of legal drugs took on new significance. They also took on a new sense of urgency.

As we leave this painful old year behind, join me in supporting the critical work of Alcohol Justice. Please make a gift to help us face the ongoing challenge of reducing the world’s 3rd leading preventable cause of death in 2021.

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#GivingTuesday - Join With Us!

Dear Friends and Allies,

#GivingTuesday—the global day of giving—is one week away!

It has been a notably rough year for me, for you and the world. Even while I work with my kids being at home doing school, and practically living on Zoom calls, I am so proud of the work of our Alcohol Justice staff, Board Directors and allied organizations this year.

In 2021, Alcohol Justice will celebrate 34 years of taking action against an industry that preys upon the disadvantaged, the marginalized, and those too young to see beyond the seductive marketing of truly dangerous products. We do this by watchdogging Big Alcohol, forming coalitions of concern, and taking decisive actions to place the health and safety of our communities above industry profits. 

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Does Uber Prevent DUIs, or Are We Being Taken for a Ride?

uber does not protect from DUI-related fatalities.Beware of anyone claiming to be a savior, especially when they make money from it. This principle has applied in many unfortunate situations throughout history, and today it applies in a new, unexpected place: ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft. Central to the pitch that ride-sharing should be as unregulated and underpaid as possible is the idea that easy access to ride-sharing prevents deaths from driving under the influence. So appealing has the idea of reducing fatal crashes through “transportation network companies” been that Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) recently declared support for California Proposition 22, which would curtail the state’s ability to apply worker protection laws to these companies’ drivers.

There’s only one problem: a preponderance of peer-reviewed academic research shows this idea isn’t true.

Alcohol Justice confronted this myth in the context of extended last call times in 2017. At the time, the authors of the bill argued that there would be no impact on DUI rates because of the easy access to Uber and Lyft. The subsection of our report challenging this myth is linked below, but since that was published a number of additional compelling analyses have emphatically shown a) that alcohol-related traffic deaths do not go down when Uber or Lyft are introduced to an area, and b) that binge drinking and other harmful use patterns actually increase along with the introduction of ride-sharing.

Reports debunking the Uber and Lyft as DUI death prevention methods include:

  • A 2019 paper in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, showing that alcohol-related deaths did not change when Uber began service in South Africa.
  • A 2020 article in Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health comparing government interventions in Chile to the introduction of Uber, and finding that the former decreased alcohol-related eaths while the latter had no effect.
  • A white paper looking at alcohol-related fatalities in London, Ontario (coincidentally, the site of a lot of strong research on the effects of last call times on motor vehicle crashes), which found no association between Uber and alcohol-related crashes. In fact, the researchers found that alcohol-related crashes went up after ride-sharing was introduced, though the finding was not statistically significant.
  • A 2020 article in PLoS ONE modeling the effects of the introduction of Uber into 100 United States metropolises, finding that not only is Uber not associated with a decrease in alcohol-related traffic deaths, but it is associated with an increase in all-cause traffic deaths.
  • Another 2020 paper looking at Uber across multiple U.S. metropolitan areas found that there was no effect on intoxicated driving with the introduction of Uber, but a significant increase in binge drinking.

The effect on binge drinking has been noticed in at least two other pre-publication papers. This finding is more ambiguous than the effect on dangerous driving; among other things, alcohol consumption, including binge drinking, has been increasing nationwide over the past two decades. But it is hard to ignore the possibility that an endorsement of ride-sharing from an organization like MADD, easily the most high-profile organization working to combat alcohol harm, makes people think that if they can get home “safely” then there are no other consequences to overconsumption.

As these ride-sharing companies grow in financial—not to mention political—clout, it is important that community advocates confront their fables. The myth that Uber prevents fatal DUI should be buried alongside the myth that “light cigarettes prevent cancer” and “a high-sugar diet is fine if you avoid cholesterol”. The only way to prevent deaths from alcohol is to confront and disempower those who profit from alcohol. And if Uber and Lyft insist on spreading this falsehood, then they should be consider alcohol profiteers as well.

READ MORE about how we cannot rely on Uber and Lyft, from the Alcohol Justice’s 2017 “Late Night Threat” report

READ MORE about the increase of binge drinking in the United States 

Under Fire for Causing Diabetes, Coca-Cola Pivots to Cirrhosis

Coca-Cola's alcoholic topochico is exploitive of youth, latinx, and womenIt’s lonely at the top of the mountain. Perhaps this explains why the Coca-Cola company has launched alcoholic Topochico, a spinoff of the popular Mexican sparkling water brand. After all, when their coalition of soda and alcohol companies successfully forced California legislature to ban all soda taxes, they defended their right to make money off damaging the pancreas of millions. Why not move on to the liver? Even better, why not move on to the livers of the Latinx community, a group who historically drinks at a lower rate than the U.S. average?

Alcoholic Topochico is already available in Mexico and Brazil, and is coming to the United States early next year. The product is manipulative and threatening in two ways:

  • As the namesake of a popular non-alcoholic Mexican product, it targets the Latinx community.
  • As a massive global company with abilities to forge policies in any country it chooses, alcoholic Topochico immediately makes Coca-Cola the new player among Big Alcohol.

The first is a major area of concern, especially among community advocates who have been following the exploitation of Latinx individuals by the alcohol industry. “Coke has continued to market Latinx culture and tradition,” said Mayra Jimenez, Advocacy Manager for the California Alcohol Policy Alliance, “profiting from increases in obesity and decreases in quality of life … The latest iteration of Topochico is a continuation of its policy of proliferating at all costs, even the lives of Latinos.”

Jimenez noted that the Mexican state of Oaxaca has already begun moving to ban the sale of Coca-Cola products to minors. This, combined with the fact that the Latinx and Hispanic population has historically drank less than the White population, suggests that Coca-Cola has motivation to try and get every penny it can from them. According to the Wall Street Journal, the Latinx population is young, growing, and in every alcohol company’s crosshairs.

And Coca-Cola has demonstrated the ability to not just choose a target, but shoot to kill. The company brought in nearly $32 billion, and is easily the largest soda company in the United States and the world, nearly doubling the market share of its nearest competitor. By entering the alcohol space, it is primed to use its economic and political clout to continue the destruction of global alcohol controls. Moreover, with truly globe-spanning brand recognition, it could give AB InBev a run for its money in breaking into new markets that currently consume little commercial alcohol.

To Jimenez, however, the harm is all part of the same pattern. “Coke has done nothing but profit from poverty while appropriating Latino culture, and it’s at it again.”

READ MORE about the how alcohol hurts racial and ethnic minority communities.

READ MORE about how Big Alcohol runs roughshod over low-income Mexican communities.