Sunday, June 29, 2014
It's Time to Call Out the New Drys and Their Junk Science
The U. S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) seems to have a tickler file that tells them to release some scary anti-alcohol study right before the Independence Day holiday, so everyone who enjoys a cold one will feel at least a little bit guilty about it. Last year at about this time they were hawking junk science in opposition to liquor privatization in Pennsylvania, earning them a rebuke from a former chairman of the American Medical Association.
This year, it's this eye-grabber: "Drinking behind 1 in 10 deaths of working-age adults." What editor can resist a headline like that? The CDC is so credible, no one even thinks to challenge them.
The person behind all this New Dry blather at CDC is Bob Brewer, who runs the CDC's anti-alcohol section. How ironic that a prominent New Dry is named 'Brewer.' It's like if the president of PETA was named "Beef." One example of CDC's recent excess is its 'Community Guide' to preventing excessive alcohol consumption.
As the Distilled Spirits Council puts it: "What's really shocking and disappointing is Dr. Brewer's failure to use this opportunity to emphasize evidence-based strategies including screening and intervention, which the CDC promoted earlier this year as a proven, effective approach."
Instead, CDC proposes typical New Dry solutions like higher taxes, banning advertising, and limiting hours of sale. In control states, CDC opposes privatization. In license states, they want to reduce the number and density of licensed outlets.
CDC predicted that privatization in Washington State would lead to a 44 percent median increase in per capita alcohol sales. Washington State's data showed a per capita alcohol sales increase of less than one percent.
As for using higher taxes as a deterrent, studies including research by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism have shown that alcohol abusers are affected little by price. It is moderate, responsible consumers who are most sensitive to prices and are the ones who cut back the most when prices rise.
Not only is that supported by research, it makes sense. That's what addicts do. Tobacco addicts now pay more than $12 a pack for cigarettes in Chicago. Everyone agrees that alcohol abuse is bad, but we don't need CDC lying in the public interest.
Last week the scare headline was "What underage drinkers drink when they binge drink." The Washington Post bit on that one, as did many others. The New Dry behind it is David H. Jernigan, who directs the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.
The Distilled Spirits Council called him out like this: "David Jernigan and his agenda-driven surveys continue to make a mockery of true and honest scientific inquiry. According to government research, the vast majority of underage drinkers -- 91.3% -- do not purchase their own alcohol, but rather obtain it from parents and other legal-age adults. This fundamental fact makes this survey meaningless and a complete waste of $2,242,826 in taxpayer money." If they're drinking Bud Light, it's because that's what's in Dad's beer fridge, not because they have a brand preference due to advertising (although Daddy might).
Even the Washington Post reporter finds it odd that little Johnny is drinking Jack Daniel's since "it is significantly more expensive than other lower shelf whiskeys." But instead of reaching the obvious conclusion (he didn't buy it himself), the Post's guy jumps to Jernigan's absurd conclusion: it's because Jack Daniel's spends so much on marketing.
Perhaps Jernigan fears his job is in jeopardy because binge drinking and underage drinking rates among high school students have reached all-time lows.
It seems that in America, there is always somebody who wants to revive some failed idea of the past, such as prohibition. Brewer and Jernigan are spending my money on this junk and they should knock it off.