Alcohol Justice CEO Presents on Alcohol Marketing in Breast Cancer Awareness

A smear of pink paintThe national outpouring of support for breast cancer research and education means the world has never been pinker—and savvy alcohol marketers knows how to capitalize on the color to sell their own brands. The pink-themed campaigns intended to raise funds for and awareness of one of the most common cancers in women seem unimpeachable. But when it comes to alcohol companies, how much are they raising and at what cost to public health?

Alcohol Justice Executive Director and CEO Bruce Lee Livingston, MPP, explored these issues in a session on “Pinkwashing and Corporate Marketing” at the 2016 Wisconsin Alcohol Policy Seminar, on October 20, 2016. Mr. Livingston addressed the discrepancy between ad budgets and actual donations, and the push to make alcohol seem socially responsible even as drinking is linked to breast cancer. DOWNLOAD Mr. Livingston's presentation.

Michigan Representative Fights for Charge for Harm Tax

hooker 72A Michigan lawmaker’s efforts to raise the beer excise tax face stiff resistance in the state legislature, according to the Detroit News. State Representative Tom Hooker (R-Byron Center) introduced a bill that would increase the tax nearly 250%, generating an estimated $60 million per year. As a textbook Charge for Harm initiative, the funds would go to the state Department of Health and Human Services to support treatment efforts, as well as programs meant to address alcohol-related harm, prevention, and enforcement.

“If you’re going to use [alcohol], the problems that you cause are going to be paid for, and the same with the producers,” Rep. Hooker told the Detroit News. “They’re producing a poison that’s causing problems to our systems, to our society, and they should have to pay for it.” According to the Michigan Department of Community Health, excess alcohol consumption could cost the state $8.2 billion in lost productivity, health care, and other costs, including alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes. The Department explicitly recommends increasing alcohol excise taxes as a means to control alcohol consumption-related costs.

The proposed tax increase, the state's first since 1966, would leave Michigan with the eighth highest excise tax in the country. The Center for Alcohol Policy notes that the state has the fifth largest number of breweries nationwide, and the most east of the Rockies.

Hooker’s bill faces opposition from a rapidly growing local brewing industry, with lobbyists warning that competition from bordering states could put local liquor stores at a disadvantage. Talking to the Detroit News, the Michigan Chamber of Commerce also opposed the measure, identifying the craft brewing industry as a “significant economic driver for the state.”

The legislation is currently with the House Regulatory Reform committee but is expected to stall there, with Chairman Ray Franz (R-Onekama) saying, “I really don’t think there’s going to be time” to bring it up to the chamber.

Still, Hooker remained adamant about the importance of his bill. “I struggle with expansion of alcohol and recognize that it does damage our families and does damage our systems,” he told the Detroit News. “Not everyone who drinks is going to be an abuser, but those costs have to be borne somewhere.”

FURTHER READING: Alcohol Justice page on Charge for Harm.

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Image credits (l to r): Erica Firment, Joe Dearman, Ian Emerson via Flickr (CC license).

Sharing Control: ABC Reaches Out to Community

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On September 7, 2016, representatives from the California Alcoholic Beverage Control Department (ABC) solicited requests and suggestions for better alcohol control strategies from public health and community safety advocates—a first-of-its-kind collaboration.

"We don't know of another case in which ABC leaders have reached out to community representatives," said Thania Balcorta, co-chair of the California Alcohol Policy Alliance (CAPA). She was joined by participants representing organizations in the Central Valley, Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego, and San Francisco regions. Newly appointed ABC Chief Deputy Director Helena Williams and three other prominent members of the department met with the group.

The public health and safety representatives voiced concerns that industry interests were drowning out the needs of communities impacted by alcohol sales. Recent trends underline this issue, with ABC struggling to recruit and retain agents even as total alcohol licenses steadily rise. Participants also requested improvements in enforcement of existing regulations, better vendor training, and better transparency and public access to ABC data.

Lastly, the group requested that ABC continue its commitment to engaging public health and safety groups in the conversation surrounding alcohol policy in the state. "We believe this meeting is the first step in a new and positive working relationship," said attendee Eric Collins, chair of the San Diego Alcohol Policy Panel.

Read the full press release.

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Youth for Justice Academy Completes Fourth Year of Leadership Training

August 24, 2016

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The fourth annual Youth for Justice Academy recently completed its two-week summer leadership training at the Alcohol Justice headquarters in San Rafael’s Canal Neighborhood.

Between 20 to 25 youths, ages of 11 to 18, participated in activities that focused on building leadership skills, nutrition training, exercise, drug and alcohol prevention, and direct action to improve their community.

The Academy summer program operates under the auspices of Alcohol Justice with the collaboration and partnership this year of the San Rafael Alcohol and Drug Coalition, the Marin County Probation Department, the National Park Service, Marin County Parks, and Trips for Kids.

Program highlights included field trips with Trips for Kids Marin to the Presidio, Fort Baker, Stinson Beach, and McNear’s beach, one of Marin County’s parks. The students also worked in the 129 Canal Garden, planting and harvesting fresh vegetables that they cooked and drank down as smoothies.

Guest speakers Ashel Eldridge, an Oakland-based rapper, environmental activist, and founder of Earth Activated, and Ernesto Hernandez, a Mayan Elder who teaches indigenous Meso-American art. Their talks at the Youth Academy centered on ancestral wisdom and native culture designed to nourish creativity and empowerment.

“It is a joy to see a beautiful group of young people come together,” says Maite Durán, Community Organizer for Youth for Justice. “Their energy is amazing. I find it personally inspiring to see them develop these skills and understanding in just two weeks. My hope, going forward, is that they will continue to make a contribution at home, their schools, or in their communities.”

Participants in the two-week summer program are encouraged to join the Youth for Justice year-long program that meets on Friday afternoons. For more information about Youth for Justice or the San Rafael Alcohol and Drug Coalition, contact Jorge Castillo at (415) 257-2488 or Maite Durán at (415) 257-2499.

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