USA Today article affirms much of what CAL warned about in 2005 battle against ‘Pop the Cap’
By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
Alcohol connoisseurs headed for a buzz or binge drinkers looking to go straight to falling-down drunk can get there more quickly than ever as additional states loosen restrictions on alcohol content for malt beverages despite warnings from health experts.
USA Today reported on the push for stouter brews that is leading lawmakers in Iowa and Mississippi to look at raising the limits. Already this year, Alabama and West Virginia have upped the cap for beer to as high as 13.9 percent. North Carolina had already raised its limit to 15 percent in 2005.
“I find it interesting that substance abuse experts are now saying what we were saying all along when we were battling this matter in the North Carolina General Assembly,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. “These extra strong beers will simply make the problems already created by alcohol even worse.”
Brewers argue that they need the higher limits to achieve certain taste results and that craft beer buyers simply drink to “appreciate the flavors” and “not to get drunk.” But David Rosenbloom, president of the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University in New York told USA Today that there is no evidence to show that people who choose high-content brews “will drink less, or fewer beers.” Instead, he said, the more alcohol “the faster you get drunk and the longer you stay drunk.”
In fact, the Center for Science in the Public Interest has called for federal legislation to restrict the alcohol content of all malt beverages to 5 percent by volume.
As the Christian Action League pointed out when battling North Carolina’s “Pop the Cap” bill, allowing increased alcohol content in malt beverages is significant because Americans already consume high levels of beer. Not only is it the alcohol drink of choice for adults in the U.S., it is the one most abused by underage drinkers and those on college campuses, where binge drinking and its fallout take the lives of some 1,400 students each year, not to mention the role alcohol plays in assaults, rapes and other crimes.
“The fact that beer is already such a significant factor in alcohol related problems; it only seems logical that allowing a new market for beer with higher alcohol content will exacerbate those problems,” the Rev. Creech said. “Breweries may say that young people don’t typically buy their more expensive craft beers, but the truth is they are drawn to specialty beers that, despite being a bit pricey, are guaranteed to get them drunk more quickly.”
He also warned that once the door is open to high-alcohol-content beers, it’s usually just a matter of time before control states with ABC systems like North Carolina will be pressured to allow sales of spirituous liquor products in retail outlets that fall within the same alcohol content range as the craft or specialty beers. Creech says North Carolina ABC stores have more than a hundred spirituous liquor products that are 30 proof or less, which is the same alcohol content of beers with alcohol up to 15%. These spirituous liquor products have to be sold in the ABC stores, but this is not the case for the high-alcohol-content beers that are sold in grocery and convenience stores. This scenario has already happened in Ohio and Idaho, Creech says. “Now we are hearing some talk about privatizing liquor sales in North Carolina. The loosening of an alcohol control measure in one place typically results in their being loosened in other areas.”
“When the Christian Action League was addressing this matter in 2005, we lost the fight to stop it. Nevertheless, we did succeed in getting the law to require these high-alcohol brews label their alcohol content,” the Rev. Creech said. “We urge anyone concerned about the health of their state’s citizens, particularly young people, to fight the push to relax these limits.”