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.

They should.

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.


Unknown said...

I trifle with it if I’m not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise I never touch – unless I’m thirsty.”
Madame Lily Bollinger

Unknown said...

“I’ve gotten more out of alcohol than alcohol has taken out of me.”
Sir Winston Churchill

Unknown said...

“Everything in moderation, including moderation.”

“There can be nothing more frequent than an occasional drink.”

Oscar Wilde

Unknown said...

“In wine there is wisdom, in beer there is freedom, in water there is bacteria.”

Benjamin Franklin

EllenJ said...

Nice article, and well put.
It can keep things in perspective to remember that:
(1) supporters of "temperance" always felt cheated by the 18th ammendments failure to make the very possession of alcohol illegal, as was their original intent (and which is only beginning to be rescinded in the case of marijuana, to their horror)
(2) they have no more accepted the 21st ammendment than they have the 13th, 14th, or 15th, nor the end of the Civil War. Nor the end of the Iraq war, for that matter.
(3) the CDC has long been stripped of any power or credibility it once may have had, and is now pretty much relevant to only those people who produce titillation features for television news shows. I think sometime around the 9/11 anthrax scares they just threw their hands up and cried, "please someone DO something; we're about useless here for anything beyond gathering data for funded studies".

PS - I don't blame you, Chuck, if this response doesn't get published :-)

Pat in OKC said...

The tax aspect is the most galling part of it. They should either focus on Bloomberg's nanny-state attempt to prevent 2 liter bottles of soft drinks, or just keep pushing the climate change dogma. Anything to occupy their empty skulls.

As Thomas Sowell noted, intellectuals are only concerned with their progressive ideals, and not with the actual results of implementing them.

Gary A. Turner said...

Looking through the CDC's recommendations makes me smile. Maintaining Limits on Days of Sale is a good one. I guess they have missed where this special interest group (aka "the people" have spoken and even in states like Georgia most counties have rolled back these "blue laws" and actually increased availability. And yet the world has continued to somehow turn . . .

Great analogy on tobacco Chuck. People who are going to drink to excess and be irresponsible are going to do those things regardless! I would challenge their "economic impact studies", as the liquor stores around Atlanta seem to be doing just fine on Sunday (and they could close if the business volume wasn't there).

Unknown said...

Agree that higher taxes are not gonna make rotgut expensive enough to deter anyone and the CDC is just hurting their own credibility by putting their stamp on weak science. That's probably the biggest issue here.

But I can support targeted tax increases in some cases. In MD a few years ago the tax on alcohol went from 6% to 9%.The extra money is used to fund substance abuse programs *. So while I have to pay a bit more, I view it as a user fee to help alleviate some of the negatives impacts from legal alcohol.

* - at least in part, I haven't audited the state books, I think some also goes to roads.

EllenJ said...

For those who really ARE concerned about drinking and alcoholism, let me suggest this little 2-question test that (according to some) can show if you (or better yet, someone else you'd like to "help") is on the slippery slope to Sodam...

1. Do you find that you drink even when you don't really need to?

2. Do you ever fell that you need to drink?

Sam Komlenic said...

Yes to both, EllenJ!!!!!

Guy L Smith said...


You really hit the nail on the CDC's head here. Great commentary. The CDC, alas, has been hijacked by Jernigan and his like who tirelessly peddle these tired old bromides that just have no basis in fact. Jernigan claims that big alcohol (yeah, I guess that's me)actually markets to kids. And he says this in the face of dramatic drops in kid drinking (check out all the big, independent research that shows that). Frankly, he just makes stuff up and that is a shame that the CDC permits it because they usually do really important stuff like real diseases that really hurt people. Jernigan is just part of the "New Dry" (love it!) agenda that just let's no facts get in their way. Thanks for shining a spotlight on such silliness. Cheers!...guy

Guy L. Smith
Executive Vice President
and vice chairman of George Dickel Distilling Co.)

Anonymous said...

More scare tactics from an orgainization that is desperately trying to maintain their funding. That's the problem with government run entities, the end never justifies the means, unless they need it to......and to Mark's point above, if ANYONE thinks the increased tax dollars on the sale of alcohol in Maryland goes to the funding of substance abuse programs, you clearly abusing too much substance. The bridge and hwy tolls in NYC are supposed to go to maintaining the roads yet the Cross Bronx Expressway looks like Main St. in downtown Bahgdad.

"never ask a Navy man if he'll have another...cause it's nobody's god damned business how many he's had already....."

Anonymous said...

If they tax bev alcohol too much it won't help anything. Poor folks will drink denatured alcohol, listerine, moonshine, etc. that would just create more problems.