By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
RALEIGH — Underage drinking, the push for privatized liquor sales, how alcohol taxes aren’t “paying the tab”, and why many faith groups encourage abstinence from America’s favorite drug — these and other topics were taken up this week at the annual meeting of the American Council on Alcohol Problems.
Hosted by the Christian Action League and held at the Cardinal Club in Raleigh, the two-day event led to a number of resolutions and brought to the forefront growing problems with alcohol promotions and products such as alco-pops designed to lure young drinkers.
Dr. Dan Ireland, executive director of ACAP said, “Raleigh, North Carolina proved to be one of the best venues to host the American Council on Alcohol Problems annual meeting that I have seen in my 33 years as Executive Director of the American Council on Alcohol Problems. The people at the Clarion Hotel and the Cardinal Club gave participants a royal welcome to North Carolina. The speakers were most informative and gave all participants valuable information to continue to wage the battle against the drug, alcohol.”
“Each speaker provided rich information,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. “Events like these keep those of us in the battle against alcohol abuse abreast of the latest trends and what can be done to help folks avoid these pitfalls.”
Attendees from eight states heard strong warnings from Dr. Mary Claire O’Brien, associate professor of emergency medicine at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, and Dylan Mulrooney-Jones, policy committee chairman of the N.C. Substance Abuse Prevention Providers Association, regarding a popular problem among youth and college students — alcopops and alcohol/high energy cocktails, both of which have sent many to the emergency room.
“If a person consumes one of these, they are meeting the criteria of binge drinking,” Mulrooney-Jones said describing the brightly packaged sweet and fruity drinks that are “primarily a spirit but classified in most states as a malt beverage.”
Known as starter drinks or “bridging beverages” to take young drinkers from carbonated fruit juices to alcohol and attracting even more underage girls than boys, the beverages remain under the radar of many parents, but are well-known to teens.
Although the FDA banned the alcoholic beverages that were pre-mixed with high levels of caffeine, (Four Loko, Joose and other so-called CABs) nearly a year ago following outcries from health officials across the nation, drinkers are still overindulging with the alcopops, which are often sold in convenience stores. And more than a few are creating their own caffeine-laced concoctions.
Dr. O’Brien, whose research among students from 10 North Carolina colleges and universities has been published nationally, told the group that when alcohol is mixed with energy drinks, the risks for injuries escalate. Her study found that the alcohol-energy drink combination was associated with more drinks per episode, more episodes of heavy drinking and more days drunk in a typical week. Not surprisingly, those who mixed energy drinks with alcohol were more likely to be hurt or injured and to require medical treatment.
“Everything more we learn about these beverages is distressing and proves that North Carolina made a huge mistake when it ‘popped the cap’ on malt beverage alcohol content in 2005, now allowing these high-test alcoholic drinks to be sold and taxed like beer, rather than spirits,” said the Rev. Creech.
The presentations from Mulrooney-Jones and O’Brien led ACAP to pass a resolution supporting efforts to “reverse improper tax classifications and sales practices of alcopops across the United States — classifications that jeopardize the health, safety and welfare of the nation’s youth and cost states across the country millions of dollars every year in lost tax revenue.”
See Resolution on Alcopops: Resolution on Underage Alcohol Use and the Products Known as Alcopops
Other resolutions passed during the ACAP gathering include one urging the state of North Carolina to reject privatization attempts and keep its current system of liquor sales and another resolution encouraging fast food establishments to keep their menus free of alcoholic beverages. Recently, Burger King has opened “Whopper Bars” in several cities and Sonic has begun selling beer at some locations.
See Resolution on Privatization: Resolution in Opposition of Privatized Liquor Sales in North Carolina
See Resolution on Alcoholic Beverages and Fast Food Establishments: Resolution in Opposition to Beer Sales at Fast Food Restaurants
See Related Story on Alcoholic Beverages and Fast Food Establishments: You Wanna Beer with that Burger
ACAP also heard from Dr. Philip Cook, a professor of public policy and economics at Duke University and author of “Paying the Tab: The Costs and Benefits of Alcohol Control;” retired Superior Court Judge Ron Bogle, an expert in the relationship between alcohol policy and all branches of law enforcement; and Jon Williams, chairman of the North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission, among other speakers.
According to Rev. Creech, one of the most interesting parts of the conference was when a religious panel, representing six different faiths, all shared why their religion taught them to abstain from alcohol.
See List of Religious Groups Represented: Religion and Abstinence
“Although the reasons they gave varied, there was one common theme: keeping the mind clear so that one could properly discern the voice of God and obey Him,” he said.
ACAP is a federation of 37 state affiliates which promote strong alcohol control policies throughout the United States. The Rev. Creech serves as the organization’s president-elect.
Dr. Ireland noted, North Carolina is most fortunate to have Dr. Mark Creech and the Christian Action League to work in the area of alcohol and other drugs to address and seek to prevent the multiple problems caused by the use of alcoholic beverages. The work of ACAP is highly complimented and elevated through association with tremendous leaders of his caliber and quality.
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