In the Doghouse

In the Doghouse

Utah Bill: State Alcohol Control Commissioners Must Drink

UTAHbillMarch 6, 2012

In a ridiculous example of the extent to which legislators will go to deregulate state alcohol control, Utah Representative Brian Doughty (D-Salt Lake City) has introduced a bill mandating that at least two of the five Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission members drink alcohol at least once a month. Since when are government regulators required to consume or use the product they’re regulating? (Cigarettes? Lottery tickets? Prescription drugs?) They aren't, and shouldn't be--with good reasons.

As stated by the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, “the purpose of alcohol control in Utah is to make liquor available to those adults who choose to drink responsibly, but not to promote the sale of liquor. By keeping liquor out of the private marketplace, no economic incentives are created to maximize sales, open more liquor stores or sell to underage persons.” Utah's liquor laws, such as correctly classifying youth-marketed alcopops as distilled spirits, serve to protect public health. It is sound policy that does not need to be"fixed." 

Promoting so-called “progressive” liquor laws in Utah has been one of Doughty's causes since he was elected. This is part of a long-term strategy to hand over Utah’s state liquor control to private enterprise, and Utah’s public health, safety, and revenue stream along with it. Privatization proponents such as Doughty argue that it will benefit drinkers by improving the price and availability of alcohol. But if they had the well-being of the state and its residents in mind, they would be thinking about the increased harm and societal costs that come with decreased state control of alcohol.

Rep. Doughty has it wrong: people aren't being regulated, a potentially dangerous product is. Regulators don't have to drink alcohol in order to understand the harmful effects it can have on society, and effective policies to reduce its harm.

A-B InBev Rubs Bud Light in UFC Fan Faces

February 20, 2012

budlightufcmirrorWith its sponsorship of The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), the world’s largest promoter of cage fighting events, Anheuser-Busch InBev (ABI) gets ultimate advertising bang for its primary sponsor buck. Since November 2011, when UFC and FOX Sports secured their 7-year, $700 million deal to air live fights on prime-time television, more underage viewers than ever have seen people beating one another to a bloody pulp, brought to them by Bud Light.  The Bud Light logo is imbued throughout all UFC events, including live fights, Pay-Per-View, and television broadcasts that reach 354 million homes worldwide. UFC's 7.5 million Facebook fans have access to live streaming of fights via Facebook, and limitless YouTube videos of bloody fights, promotions, and “pornohol” such as a Bud Light Lime adfeaturing UFC “Octagon girl” Arianny Celeste, in which she's topless, underwear-clad and rolling around in a bed of limes. 

In its 2011 announcement of Bud Light’s UFC sponsorship renewal, ABI boasts that it “will continue to immerse the beer into all areas of the world’s premier mixed martial arts organization.” This includes a thinly veiled effort to target underage youth with graphic violence and sexually explicit ads, especially males. According to UFC president Dana White, "UFC is definitely a younger guy's sport. Our target audience is anywhere from age 17 to 35." 

Perhaps the target audience is even younger than that. Indeed, the UFC openly markets to children, selling UFC action figures at Toys “R” Us, as well as UFC video games and children's clothing. Meanwhile, UFC athletes and White himself have recently come under fire for sexist, homophobic, violent and derogatory remarks, including jokes about rape and sexual assault, prompting letters and petitions to ABI (to halt its sponsorship) and Fox (to drop UFC from its lineup).
Thankfully, some public health and social justice advocates are able to articulate the hypocrisy of ABI sponsoring UFC while it puts a Bud Light Lime sign on a Pride parade program, waves a rainbow flag, and implores "drink responsibly." But the UFC audience, including the general public and youth nationwide, continue to be saturated with more and more graphic violence directed at young people. Brought to them by Bud Light.

FIFA Tells Brazil to Take Public Safety and Stuff It - Demands Alcohol Sales at World Cup

February 7, 2012         

beer brazil_fifa_soccerProving once again that it puts profits before “the beautiful game,” the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) has demanded that Brazil lift its ban on the sale of alcoholic beverages at soccer matches during the 2014 World Cup. The governing body of soccer went so far as to order that the “right to sell beer” be enshrined in a special World Cup law being considered by Congress. A right to sell beer? How about a right to attend the premier event in sports without alcohol-induced violence? Anyone?

In an effort to reduce alcohol-related sports violence and protect public health in general, alcohol sales are currently banned from football stadiums in Brazil. A World Health Organization study carried out in countries including Brazil, showed that about 46% of violent incidents seen in the emergency room were related to alcohol use. The study also demonstrated that injuries from violent incidents increase with alcohol use. In light of the overwhelming evidence, Brazil’s health minister urged Congress to maintain the ban. Yet FIFA, despite its claims of a mission to “build a better future,” will have nothing of it. Secretary-General Jerome Valcke responded: “Alcoholic drinks are part of the FIFA World Cup, so we're going to have them. Excuse me if I sound a bit arrogant but that's something we won't negotiate.” Clearly when FIFA weighs the money they make from sponsors like Anheuser-Busch InBev's Budweiser brand - which is estimated to pay tens of millions of dollars for sponsorship and exclusive pouring rights - against the health and safety of the approximately 3 million people expected the attend the games, they come up with a clear winner.
FIFA claims that “We use the power of football as a tool for social and human development, by strengthening the work of dozens of initiatives around the globe to support local communities in the areas of peacebuilding, health, social integration, education and more.” And yet, it’s not very difficult to see that demanding alcohol sales at World Cup games will very likely increase violent incidents and injuries, negative health impacts, and social disintegration. Alcohol Justice’s message to FIFA: Stop pandering to Big Alcohol. Back off and let a sovereign country manage its own public health and safety.