In my last 4 blogs, I described 10 of the 12 policies that were approved by the National Council of IOGT-USA last year.

In this blog, I present Policies #11 along with explanations as to why they are important. I conclude by offering suggestions as to how we as individuals, local and national organisations might work to attain each of these goals.

So, we continue:

POLICY #11.  THE ALCOHOL INDUSTRY MUST BE RESPONSIBLE.

We advocate that the alcohol industry work to “act responsibly” and pay their fair share of the expenses of alcohol use and alcohol dependence (alcoholism).

RATIONALE: In addition to other areas of “acting responsibly” described in the several policies above – such as fully disclosing all ingredients and their nutritional values as well as providing personal health warnings to the product consumers, including the addiction potential of using their products – the industry must be very proactive in protecting the community from the other possible uses and abuses of its products.

Here the industry has a long way to go.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last year (2011) published a study that showed that the annual expense of just excessive alcohol use alone in the USA was an incredible $223.5 billion (Excessive Drinking Costs). As far as taxes go, the industry overall paid about $9 billion in federal taxes and another $6 billion in state taxes.

That leaves a huge deficit of over $208 billion for the states, federal governments, and the American public to absorb.

And then the industry has not been known for leaving the cities and environment better for having been a part of it. In May this year, the New York Times published an article that contained the following quote: “AFTER seeing Anheuser-Busch’s devastating exploitation of American Indians, I’m done with its beer.”

One of the largest parts of the budgets of virtually every state and local government is due to the significant expenses these governments have monitoring, arresting, cleaning up after drunk driving crashes, trying violators in court, etc.  However, as noted above, state and local entities do not have sufficient revenue from alcohol taxes to come anywhere close to the increases in costs. The general public is thereby forced to subsidize the alcohol industry in paying for the costs of this abuse.

College towns have the added costs of even more “secondary effects” of alcohol abuse in an exacerbated style. These “secondary effects” can be a result of weekend partiers who often trash the local neighborhoods on their way back to their dorms/fraternity houses after a long evening at the local town bars, or as a result of sports related “riots” coming as a result of their team winning (or losing) a game. These secondary effects can also involve sexual and other abuse.

Quite obviously other communities are as vulnerable to all of these negative consequences and costs of alcohol abuse as well. Again, the general public is forced to subsidize the alcohol industry for the consequences of its products.

Another major area of fiscal concern is the emergency room (ER) costs of victims of drunk driving car crashes and other forms of physical alcohol abuse including rape. The ER costs almost always exceed any hospitalization insurance and to make up for the difference, again, the general public is forced to subsidize the alcohol industry.

And then there is the cost of alcohol dependence treatment. There is no evidence of any alcohol company financing a treatment facility for alcoholics.  And, if by chance a patient would have insurance covering alcohol dependence, insurance companies generally pay for just a few (e.g., 4 – 6 sessions) treatment sessions. If more is needed, and this is generally the case, the cost has to be totally covered by the client, the client’s family, or again, the general public.

What can you do to advance this policy?

A.    Have members find out how much money your city/county/state or province actually collects each year in taxes and any other source of revenue from all alcohol producers, distributors, and sales outlets.

Then, have a “special task force” of members determine how much money alcohol abuse has been costing the city/county/state – province.  Be sure to cover the costs of all of the various primary and secondary effects of alcohol use and abuse. Be sure to add treatment costs for addicts.

Subtract the actual monetary costs from the income received by the governmental entity to determine how much, if anything, that the citizens of your communities are subsidizing the excesses of the alcohol industry.

B.    If you live in or near a college town, check to find out how much the city receives each year from the alcohol producers, distributors, and retailers in the form of taxes and other income.

Then, find out how much the alcohol industry subsidizes the sale of alcohol by offering discount events such as “ladies night specials.”

Obtain costs from the police department and the court system as to extra staff, equipment, extra time, etc., that are incurred as a result of events at a time when college is not in session. Then, obtain the same data from the time when the college is in a normal pattern, when there is a special weekend event such as a guest entertainer, and when there is a full-blown athletic event where the home team wins a major game over a hated rival!

Compare all of the alcohol costs of each of these events. Report your results.

C.    Obtain cost reports from the local police department and court system as to extra staff, equipment, extra time, etc. incurred as a result of alcohol use and abuse over the entire year. Determine how much of this expense would be paid for out of current tax receipts.

D.    A common complaint is neighborhood damage caused by inebriated drinkers returning home after a night of partying. Who pays for any damage that these carousers inflict?

Report your results to the press/media as well as to the IOGT International.

For more information:

A Battle With the Brewers, New York Times, May 2012

CDC Study “Economic Costs of Excessive Alcohol Consumption in the U.S.” in PDF

Corporations and Health Watch. Tracking the Effects of Corporate Practices on Health (website) resource on alcohol industry in the USA