When They Came for the Malt Liquor, I Did Nothing… August 18, 2013Posted by geoff in News.
…for I drank imported bitters. But it’s pretty clear that everybody’s drink of choice will be targeted soon, given the State’s interest in your healthcare:
“Recent studies reveal that nearly a third of injury visits to Level I trauma centers were alcohol-related and frequently a result of heavy drinking,” said lead study author David Jernigan, PhD, CAMY director. “Understanding the relationship between alcohol brands and their connection to injury may help guide policy makers in considering taxation and physical availability of different types of alcohol given the harms associated with them.”
“Guiding policy makers in considering physical availability” means, of course, banning the alcohol brands they think are causing the problem. Which brands are they after?
Five beer brands – Budweiser, Steel Reserve, Colt 45, Bud Ice and Bud Light – were consumed in the highest quantities by emergency room patients, according to a new pilot study from researchers at The Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth (CAMY) at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Three of these are “malt liquors” with higher alcohol content than regular beer.
Personally I’d happily dance on the grave of any of those brands, but I think they’re unjustly being singled out. Or quintupled out. Whatever.
The study has several problems:
They Just Counted Friday and Saturday Nights? Really? They make it sound like the “1/3 of injury visits involved patients who had been drinking” applies to all emergency room visits, but the study only evaluated one hospital in East Baltimore and the study was restricted to emergency admissions on Friday and Saturday nights. Frankly I’m amazed that 95% of people admitted on Friday and Saturday nights hadn’t had a few. What they heck are they doing in Baltimore on weekend nights?
Why Those Brands? Because They’re Cheap. Duh. Singling out those beer brands is pretty silly: obviously people are looking for the biggest bang for their buck. As one source puts it:
Malt liquor is also the cheapest legal high you can get. Selling in groceries and liquor stores for as little as $1.39 for a 40-ounce bottle, King Cobra, for example, goes for about the same price as soda water.
If you banned those beers, people would just move up to the next most economical choice.
It’s Not The Malt Liquor, It’s The Demographics. I liked this wide-eyed statement: “Four malt liquors – Steel Reserve, Colt 45, Bud Ice and King Cobra – accounted for almost 50 percent (46%) of the beer consumed by the sample. Yet these four beverages accounted for only 2.4 percent of beer consumption in the general population.” Congratulations, geniuses. You’ve finally discovered what the beer industry has been counting on for decades: black men (the dominant demographic in that East Baltimore emergency room) are a big market for malt liquor. “In the United States, malt-liquor drinking has been most often associated with the African-American community. Black consumption of all malt-liquor brands in this country is estimated at 28 percent…” Since 72% of the admissions were African-American patients, it’s not a surprise that malt liquors are over-represented in their study.
It’s Not Even Beer’s Fault. From their own study:
The study found that the proportion of distilled spirits consumed by the ER sample was higher than the market share for distilled spirits in the U.S. … beer was consumed at a lower proportion in the ER sample compared to the proportion of its consumption in the national market share for beer,…
Yeah, you read that right. But somehow they decide to blame the beer.
Summary. As you could tell from the opening statement, the authors are all too ready to start talking policy options (which invariably reduce to restricting your choices and freedoms) based on this little crappy study. May I suggest a far more potent policy option: simply make it illegal to hold somebody else’s beer. That should prevent the, “Hey! I got an idee.. somebody hold my beer” scenario, which I’ll bet accounts for the vast majority of those injuries.