Study: Effective State Alcohol Policy Lowers Binge Drinking

State Excise Tax Map
State Excise Tax Map

A new study published by researchers at Boston University’s School of Public Health and Boston Medical Center confirms that states implementing effective alcohol policies have significantly lower binge drinking rates. The most effective policies include state monopoly over alcohol wholesale and/or retail sales, restrictions on hours of alcohol sales, higher beer taxes, wholesale and retail price restrictions, and restrictions on outlet density. Binge drinking accounts for almost half of the 88,000 alcohol-attributable deaths in the U.S. each year and three-fourths of the $223 billion in economic costs. “If alcohol policies were a newly discovered gene, pill or vaccine, we’d be investing billions of dollars to bring them to market,” said Dr. Timothy Naimi, senior author of the study, who is associate professor of medicine and community health sciences and an attending physician at BMC.  

Seven Challenges to Big Alcohol’s Power in 2014

An Invitation to Join the Fight with Alcohol Justice from
Bruce Lee Livingston, Executive Director/CEO

Bruce Lee Livingston
Bruce Lee Livingston, Executive Director/CEO

Big Alcohol profits megabucks from a lack of transparency. Big Alcohol is a term for the most powerful alcohol corporations of the world, increasingly merging into a concentrated few. Most Americans have little idea of the true size and scope of the global businesses behind the brand names, let alone the way their practices endanger public health and safety.

Globally, alcohol consumption causes an estimated 2.5 million deaths every year. It is the most harmful drug to both drinkers and nondrinkers. Alcohol is the third leading cause of preventable death in the United States, accounting for an estimated 80,000 deaths annually. More than 4,700 people under age 21 die annually from injuries caused by drinking alcohol. Alcohol use is associated with physical and sexual assault, unintended pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, violence, vandalism, crime, overdose, other substance use, and high-risk behavior.

Yet global players like Anheuser-Busch InBev, SABMiller and Molson Coors, (operating as MillerCoors in the U.S.), Diageo, Pernod Ricard, and Constellation Brands inflict more than $223.5 billion dollars of alcohol-related harm annually in the U.S. with virtually no accountability for their actions. Wall Street is seriously chatting up the idea of a $100 billion merger of A-B InBev with MillerCoors to control about 75% of all beer sales in America. Alcohol producers and their trade association/front groups including DISCUS, Wine Institute, and American Beverage Institute use aggressive lobbying practices to kill or roll back alcohol regulations, proliferate youth-enticing marketing, and, of course, push a drug that hurts or kills many with immediate, chronic, and/or addictive results.


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NYC Budget Office: Alcohol Tax Increase Would Net $49 Million Annually


NYC Report

New York City's Independent Budget Office has suggested an increase on the city's alcohol excise tax, last raised in 1980. The IBO's report estimates the tax would generate an additional $49 million annually for the city's coffers. Due to inflation erosion, the value of the city's beer and spirits tax is now only one-third of its 1980 value. The adjustment would include an increase on beer from $0.12/gallon to $0.34/gallon, and spirits from $1.00/gallon to $2.80/gallon. Wine products, which currently aren't taxed, would be levied at $0.30/gallon. Raising alcohol excise taxes is also the single most effective intervention for reducing alcohol related-harm from excessive consumption, including vehicle crashes, violence, and disease, making the proposition a win-win for the city.



Social (Unregulated) Media Now the Primary Ad Platform for Alcohol Producers


Bud Light Phone App

On the heels of Facebook's advertising deal with multinational spirits conglomerate Diageo, Anheuser-Busch/InBev now says that Facebook and other social media sites reach more consumers than TV. Social media platforms offer Big Alcohol the ability to reach smartphone users with targeted ads twice as quickly and user-generated content such as videos. It is this user-generated content that concerns researchers, such as the Australian team that recently expressed concern about how it feeds the culture of excessive drinking. Meanwhile, sites such as Facebook are eager to cash in, setting policies that pander to alcohol advertisers and encourage alcohol consumption through unfettered promotion.

European Facebook chief Erika Mann recently issued a thinly veiled warning to governments not to try to restrict alcohol advertising and content on the social media giant. She instead touted the current useless system of self-regulation that alcohol producers love, because they can use it to promote so-called "responsible use" of their products, overexposing children to their advertising while claiming to protect them. Under self-regulation, the industry writes its own advertising codes, and there are no consequences for violating them. It's time to demand external, third-party regulators to implement and enforce sensible, protective regulations that reduce advertising to youth and prevent promoting excessive consumption.

Click here to download these AJ reports on Facebook alcohol promotion and industry self-regulation:

Alcohol Promotion on Facebook

Why Big Alcohol Can't Police Itself: A Review of Advertising Self-Regulation in the Distilled Spirits Industry