CDC 'Excessive Alcohol' Study Author Recommends Prohibitionist Policies

The results of a new study on the economic costs of excessive alcohol abuse demonstrate how federal bureaucrats, through a myriad of conflicts of interest, are attempting to influence and, perhaps, dictate, public policy.

In a press statement dated August 13th, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced the release of a study that concludes excessive alcohol use causes a large economic burden to the nation.

According to the release:

Excessive alcohol use cost states and D.C. a median of $2.9 billion in 2006, ranging from $420 million in North Dakota to $32 billion in California. This means the median cost per state for each alcoholic drink consumed was about $1.91.

Based on data from 2006, the researchers, the CDC says, found that the costs of excessive drinking were primarily due to losses in workplace productivity, health care expenses, criminal justice expenses, motor vehicle crash costs, and property damage.

The CDC indicates that the costs to the economy are mainly due to binge drinking, which they define as “consuming five or more drinks on an occasion for men or four or more drinks on an occasion for women.” According to the CDC, binge drinking “was responsible for more than 70 percent of excessive alcohol use related costs in all states and D.C.”

Dr. Tom Frieden, CDC Director, said:

Excessive alcohol use has devastating impacts on individuals, families, communities, and the economy. In addition to injury, illness, disease, and death, it costs our society billions of dollars through reduced work productivity, increased criminal justice expenses, and higher healthcare costs. Effective prevention programs can support people in making wise choices about drinking alcohol.

The press release goes on to say that the study’s researchers actually believe that their findings are “underestimated because it did not consider a number of other costs, such as those due to pain and suffering by the excessive drinker or others who were affected by the drinking.”

Dr. Robert D. Brewer, Alcohol Program Lead at CDC and one of the authors of the study, said, “It is striking to see most of the costs of excessive drinking in states and D.C. are due to binge drinking, which is reported by about 18 percent of U.S. adults.”

“Fortunately, the Community Guide includes a number of effective strategies that states and localities can use to prevent binge drinking and the costs related to it,” Brewer said.

Perusing the Community Guide, one can find the “effective strategies” recommended by CDC’s Brewer for dealing with excessive alcohol consumption in the U.S. Among them are increasing alcohol taxes, limiting alcohol outlet density through licensure and zoning regulations, and maintaining limits on days of sale and hours of sale. In addition, the Community Guide recommends against the privatization of retail alcohol sales.

The Community Guide, according to its website, is a collection of all reviews, recommendations, and other findings of the Community Preventive Services Task Force, “an independent, nonfederal, unpaid panel of public health and prevention experts that provides evidence-based findings and recommendations about community preventive services, programs, and policies to improve health.”

The stated purpose of the Task Force is to make “recommendations… to help inform the decision making of federal, state, and local health departments, other government agencies, communities, healthcare providers, employers, schools and research organizations.” The CDC Director appoints the 15 members of the Task Force.

The Task Force’s website states that, while it is “independent,” “CDC provides ongoing administrative, research, and technical support for this task force,” and its “systematic reviews” of pertinent scientific literature are overseen “by scientists and subject matter experts" from the CDC "in collaboration with a wide range of government, academic, policy, and practice-based partners."

One question is how are recommendations to raise excise taxes on alcohol, limit its sale, and lobby against the privatization of alcohol retail sales being made “independently” based on a study authored by Brewer, an employee of the CDC, i.e., the federal government, that is also supported by members of a Task Force who are appointed by the CDC Director? The conflicts of interest seem pretty stark.

Second, how have these recommendations themselves been shown to be effective deterrents of excessive alcohol consumption?

Excessive alcohol use can certainly be problematic, but methods such as alcohol screenings and targeted interventions for those who are truly problem drinkers have already been shown to be effective, rather than big-government policies, the intent of which are to control the behavior of American citizens at large.

Based on the CDC recommendations, will the United States soon be seeing prohibitionist policies once again?


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