By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
June 6, 2013
RALEIGH — Talk about going down smoothly — two beer bills became state law this past week, passing the Senate without so much as a hiccup. H 610 – Modify In-Stand Beer Sales Requirements will allow in-stand beer sales in venues with at least 3,000 seats during professional sports events, while H 829 – Sale of Growlers to Certain ABC Permittees makes it lawful for restaurants and retailers to sell beer in 64-ounce re-sealable jugs known as “growlers.”
The Christian Action League didn’t take a position on the Growler Bill. Although such bills do create angst for the League concerning matters that may not be readily apparent, nonetheless, after extensive research by staff and conferring with national experts in the field of responsible alcohol control policies, the League could find no data regarding significant harms caused by growlers.
But the organization did oppose the in-stand beer sales because of its potential for increased sales to minors and/or intoxicated drinkers.
“The in-stand beer sales bill violates a fundamental principle of strong alcohol policy — the recognition that increased access means increased sales/consumption, resulting in increased harms,” the Rev. Mark Creech, the League’s executive director, told the Committee on Commerce Tuesday. “The fact that patrons now have to take the time to walk to a concession stand and wait in line to get their malt beverages is something that works to drive down dangerous consumption levels.”
Dr. Creech said he was disappointed but not surprised when the committee gave its approval without even discussing the matter. It passed the Senate Wednesday with no opposition.
“This is all too often the response we get from lawmakers about these bills. If it is an alcohol related bill, they will pass what the industry wants and won’t give a second thought about the public’s health,” he said, adding that, unfortunately, most legislators don’t have any qualms about expanding the alcohol market.
“They do think about drunk driving, but they don’t think about the negative consequences of various marketing techniques and how they endanger the public’s health,” Dr. Creech lamented.
During his remarks, he cited a 2008 study provided by the National Institutes of Health that looked specifically at alcohol sales in the stands at stadiums and determined that service of alcohol by such venues correlated with an increase in sales to intoxicated and under-aged drinkers. He said the Christian Action League appreciates the bill’s directive that the ABC Commission set rules and regulations regarding in-stand sales, but the current policy requiring that beer sales be restricted to the concession only was superior with respect to alcohol control. He said the bill’s quick sweep through the Senate with no questions or debate shows the profit motive for the alcohol industry sometimes overshadows the state’s concern for its citizens. “To show you how carelessly, I think, the matter was considered by the Senate,” he said, “even the lawmaker who handled the bill on the Senate floor, in error, said the bill would apply to stadiums with seating of 3,000 or less (it’s actually 3,000 or more – a huge difference), and not one member even asked a question, sought to correct the misinformation, or offered an objection.”
Prior to the vote, in-stand beer sales were offered only at venues with 60,000 or more seats, limiting them to Charlotte’s Bank of America Stadium, home of the Carolina Panthers. Dr. Creech added that we should be concerned because the smaller stadiums don’t have the resources for security. “They might have a Sheriff’s deputy or two – maybe,” he said. “And you can be sure this kind of situation is inevitably going to create some unpleasant situations that will require security.”
In addition to these bills to expand the alcohol market, the Legislature also passed several measures aimed at controlling the ill effects of substance abuse.
H 532, No Drinking in EMS & Law Enforcement Vehicles, is a common sense law passed unanimously by both the House and Senate. It makes it a crime to operate an emergency vehicle while consuming alcohol or while alcohol remains in a person’s body. The new law takes effect Dec. 1.
H 813, Ban Synthetic Cannabinoids, makes the manufacture, possession, sale, use and delivery of all such substances unlawful. Passed by the House in mid-May, the ban includes items sold as bath salts or under brand names such as K-1, Spice or Bizarro. On Tuesday the Senate gave its approval to the law, which takes effect July 1.
S 530, Prohibit E-cigarette Sales to Minors, won approval in the House Wednesday and is headed back to the Senate for concurrence. The bill would prohibit the distribution of tobacco-derived products and vapor products to minors beginning Aug. 1.
“We’re glad to see the actions taken to curb abuse of all these substances, but we also want lawmakers to remember that alcohol is the most abused of all,” Dr. Creech said. “It would be refreshing for them to first consider the public’s health before promoting convenience and giving alcohol companies virtually free rein.”