In the Doghouse

In the Doghouse

Boston Mayor Walsh: Business Interests Before Public Health?

January 28, 2015

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh's 2015 legislative agenda includes another attempt to expand late-night alcohol sales, and allow city bars to stay open as late as 4 a.m. If enacted, alcohol consumption and related harm and costs to the city are likely to increase, given that every drink consumed produces $1.90 in economic cost. Perhaps Walsh is not aware that maintaining limits on hours of alcohol sales is recommended policy to prevent excessive consumption.

Yet Walsh does have experience supporting effective alcohol policy, and his push for late-night bar hours is a 180-degree turn from that prior experience. As State Representative he sponsored and supported a bill banning alcohol ads from state property including the MBTA subway system, and continued supporting the policy as he ran his successful mayoral campaign.

As his mayoral term goes by, Walsh continues to increase his focus on business interests and away from public health and human services. Walsh's late-night bar proposal comes at the same time that the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) has selected Boston for its 2024 Olympic bid, largely due to business and political interests that drove the effort. Residents are skeptical that political leaders will be able to fund the Olympics without spending public money that should go toward housing and education.

Calling himself a long-time friend to the recovery community, Walsh also proposed a new Office of Recovery Services as part of his legislative agenda this year. He should reconnect with his friends in that community, and see how they feel about the effects of expanded late-night alcohol access, not only on members of their community but also on youth, college students, young adults, and local property owners. Public health advocates, including the recovery community, won't be silenced about the negative consequences of expanded late-night alcohol sales.

Koch Bros' American Future Fund Supports Stalled PA Privatization Effort

January 10, 2015

Charles and David Koch's American Future Fund (AFF) recently announced a 2015 statewide media and advocacy blitz with 3 priority areas, one of which is privatizing liquor sales in Pennsylvania. According to The Center for Responsive Politics, the AFF is a 501(c)(4) tax-exempt organization that is supposed to spend resources for social welfare purposes. However, the AFF plans to strong-arm passage of retail liquor sales privatization and put the health of Pennsylvanians at risk, courtesy of the Koch Brothers' influence, money, and power. Never mind the fact that state lawmakers and citizens have rejected privatization year after year.

Privatization efforts in Pennsylvania have not succeeded for decades, despite election promises and incumbent threats, for good reason. State-controlled alcohol systems make sense on many levels. They bring much-needed funds to state coffers, and they help reduce consumption and harmful consequences. Based on analysis and findings from the U.S. Community Preventive Services Task Force, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends against privatization, which has a negative impact on public health. Increased consumption resulting from privatization results in increased alcohol-related harm and economic costs - to government, private businesses, and families.

Privatization proponents say the sale of the state's liquor stores will bring a boon to the economy, but any initial economic boon will soon be outpaced by the increasing costs of related harm, along with losses in state alcohol sales revenues. Any economic benefit will be seen by Big Alcohol and the Koch Brothers, while the public pays the price.

Pennsylvania has admirably withstood the onslaught of pro-privatization campaigns and influence over the years, but the Koch Bros. and Big Alcohol only need to win once for long-lasting harm to commence in Pennsylvania. States that privatize are very unlikely to reinstate monopolies on alcohol sales.

Heineken: Big Alcohol Promoter to Youth in 2014

December 3, 2014

Neil Patrick Harris ripping on alcohol
advertising regulations in a Heineken ad
2014 was a typical PR year for Big Alcohol and its trade groups, peddling its products to youth and deflecting accountability for alcohol-related harm with "drink responsibly" campaigns and so-called awareness programs. It's hard to say which corporation used the most egregious tactics, but Heineken certainly had a banner year:

  • Promoted its faux public health organization called the Health Alliance on Alcohol along with partners New York-Presbyterian Healthcare System, White Plains Hospital, and Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital of New York-Presbyterian, just in time for Alcohol Awareness Month. The move helped ensure that Big Alcohol and its gargantuan PR and lobby machine controlled the public dialogue about alcohol and distracted from public health research and messages about alcohol producers' role in related harm. The front group's Heineken-branded website and "talk to your kids about alcohol" campaign allows the company to slap its brand on a popular but ineffective educational campaign, and dodge accountability for the 4,800 alcohol-related underage deaths each year by placing the onus for underage drinking prevention squarely on parents.

  • Neil Patrick Harris promoting his Cloudy With a Chance of
    Meatballs 2 film
  • Used Neil Patrick Harris to rip on alcohol regulation in ads while circumventing the industry's own voluntary advertising guideline not to use characters attractive to youth. Harris acts in and does voices for many cartoons and youth-oriented movies, TV, and video games such as Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, The Smurfs, Adventure Time, Penguins of Madagascar, The Muppets, Spider Man: Shattered Dimensions (game), Cats & Dogs, & Glee.

  • Official sponsor of the Coachella music festival, where the average attendee's age is 20, targeted teens and tweens using Snapchat.

Heineken's media jabs at advertising regulations while blatantly working to increase its share of the youth market is a perfect example of why industry self-regulation doesn't protect youth from alcohol advertising. Companies like Heineken market to youth with impunity and the assistance of the Federal Trade Commission, which appears more interested in helping alcohol corporations advertise than in getting them to stop.