Put California’s 4 a.m. Bar Bill to Bed

Dangerous Bill’s Health Hazards Hidden Behind Empty Rhetoric

drunk people on the streetMost doctors will tell you it’s never too early to stop drinking. According to California State Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), however, it’s never too late to keep drinking. Wiener has introduced a bill to the state senate allowing bars and nightclubs to continue serving alcohol until 4 a.m. Wiener claims the bill (SB 384) will promote tourism and generate additional income. However, existing research suggests the extra costs—in law enforcement, health and safety, and quality of life—will far outweigh any tax revenues.

Health research and common sense both suggest that later alcohol service is linked to greater alcohol-related violence, traffic incidents, and emergency room visits. This both costs money and strains emergency services, forcing both law enforcement and medical staffs to operate at higher capacities around the clock. Proponents of the bill contend the bill emphasizes “local control,” but residents of alcohol-outlet dense neighborhood will be disproportionately impacted while any revenue benefits flow up into state coffers or into the pockets of the nightlife industry. Moreover, none of those profits are earmarked for programs to counteract the harm caused by extended drinking. This gap is exacerbated by a law passed by voters in 2010 that makes it effectively impossible for local jurisdictions to generate those funds through charge-for-harm strategies—a bit of bitter irony that local control advocates conveniently ignore.

This is the second go-around for a late-night bar bill. A similar version of was introduced in 2013 by Mark Leno, and defeated thanks to the efforts of community groups and health advocates. “Nothing has changed since 2013,” said Bruce Lee Livingston, Executive Director / CEO of Alcohol Justice. “A bill to allow the sale of alcohol until 4 a.m. will create dangerous new public policy that threatens health and safety throughout California.”

California already bears a higher burden from alcohol-related harm than any other state, including 10,572 dates, 17,700 hospitalizations, and tens of billions of dollars of costs to government and the public. Moreover, researchers are only scratching the surface of the long-term health effects of alcohol. “We just don’t need additional hours of business for this substance,” Alcohol Justice Director of Public Affairs Michael Scippa told the San Francisco Chronicle. “It’s not like selling coffee and doughnuts. This is a substance which is a class one carcinogen.”

Extended bar hours have a proven potential to create lasting damage to individuals and communities, and offer few benefits to average Californians. Alcohol Justice and the California Alcohol Policy Alliance strongly oppose SB 384. Put this dangerous bill to bed.

READ MORE about Alcohol Justice and CAPA’s opposition.

LISTEN to Alcohol Justice Executive Director/CEO Bruce Lee Livingston present his opposition on KQED.

WATCH CAPA's video giving the truth on this unsafe, unhealthy bill.

TAKE ACTION to urge your elected representatives to stop SB 384.


States Move to Tighten DUI Laws

DWI enforcement checkpointThere is no safe level of drinking before driving. While 0.08 is the threshold throughout the U.S., this number isn’t a proven cutoff. Many countries throughout the world set the cutoff lower, and this year four states are considering meeting them there.

The National Transit Safety Board has long advocated to set a 0.05 blood alcohol content as the base level for driving under the influence. Hawaii, Utah, and Washington all have bills in their legislature setting the BAC limits there, while a New York bill would set it at 0.06. The Hawaiian bill was introduced by State Senator Josh Green, a physician. “At 0.05, you’re 50 percent less likely to cause an accident, less likely to hurt yourself, to kill an innocent person on the road,” Dr. Green said to local outlet KHON.

Alcohol Justice has long maintained that 0.05 saves lives. “Alcohol is a factor in almost a third of motor vehicle fatalities in this country,” said Michael Scippa, Director of Public Affairs for Alcohol Justice. “When it comes to lowering BAC limits and saving lives, the science is on the side of these legislators.”

TAKE ACTION to tell your representatives to support Point .05 Saves Lives.

Budweiser Sheds Olympic Rings, But Still Stains the NFL

Bud Bowl - because cartoons are fun for the whole familyJust months after renaming itself "America" in honor of U.S. Olympians, Budweiser has terminated its sponsorship of Team USA, CNN reports. The decision comes in the wake of disappointing ratings for the scandal- and Zika-plagued 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro.

According to Ad Age, Budweiser parent company A-B InBev found that the winter games were not a "key consumption period" for their product. The summer games, on the other hand, tended to attract an older, more female audience, while the brand hopes to reach young males.

Alcohol Justice Executive Director/CEO Bruce Lee Livingston applauded Budweiser's withdrawal, and urged them to go further. "A-B InBev spends hundreds of millions annually advertising during sporting events," he said in a press release. "This leads to increased underage drinking and turns family events into drunken, violent experiences."

A-B InBev has a $1.4 billion contract through 2022 with the National Football League, and is regularly the top spender in Super Bowl advertising. This lucrative relationship persists in the face of an alarming and persistent rise in violence at football games. 

With that in mind, Alcohol Justice calls for A-B InBev to really live up to the name America, and take an action that would benefit countless young fans: keep withdrawing from sports sponsorships, starting with the Super Bowl. Livingston, however, is not optimistic. "They want young American men hooked on their beers, so unfortunately we expect them to keep going for the teen boy audience that the Super Bowl attracts," he said.

WATCH award-winning youth-produced counter-beer ads from past Free the Bowl® and Free Our Sports® video contests.

Free Our Sports - get Big Alcohol out of the Super Bowl
READ MORE about Zombie Spuds--A-B InBev resurrects youth-oriented icon for Superbowl ad, could reach 30 million kids.

READ MORE about getting alcohol out of our sports.

Raise the Beer Tax: A Healthy Plan for an Ailing Budget

there will be be beer (I take your Guinness milkshake)Sometimes there are easy answers to hard problems. California faces a $1.6 billion budget shortfall, in large part due to miscounted healthcare costs. According to Alcohol Justice, a $0.25 per beer tax would cover that and more. Nothing could be simpler. As Alcohol Justice Executive Director/CEO Bruce Lee Livingston said, “A beer tax increase is common sense, fiscally responsible, and long overdue.”

California’s beer tax hasn’t been raised in a quarter of a century, and is in the bottom half nationally. (Its liquor and wine taxes rank even lower.) The state is hardly alone in this; very few states have raised that rate in the past decade, and only Louisiana has done so within the past year. Proposed hikes in New Mexico and Kansas face industry opposition, despite the steady depreciation of current taxes as compared to inflation.

Alcohol product excise taxes play two roles. First, they generally raise revenue. Alcohol Justice maintains a tax calculator that estimates the total financial benefit to states for raising their excise taxes. A simple $0.25 tax per drink of beer would bring in over $1.7 billion dollars to California’s general fund.

Second, excise taxes can direct funds straight to programs that address the harms of alcohol. This model, called Charge for Harm, essentially places the responsibility on alcohol sellers for offsetting the damage their products cause. The end result, though, is still a savings to the state government; California picks up the tab for an estimated $13.7 billion in alcohol-related costs annually, including outlays for healthcare and criminal justice.

California is overdue to increase its alcohol taxes. Governor Brown may have missed his chance this year, but the need will grow. “Each year alcohol taxes are not raised translates into a government subsidy of Big Alcohol,” said Michael Scippa, Alcohol Justice’s public affairs director. “It's time for our state leaders to add a beer tax increase to any budget-balancing plan.”

READ MORE about Charge for Harm.