A reader emailed this question. “Why do so many researchers, governments, agencies, etc. put so much energy into showing the negative effects of alcohol? It seems like there’s a concerted effort to discredit all alcohol consumption.” In other words, why all the anti-alcohol bias?
That’s an excellent question. But the answer is fairly simple.
1. Alcohol Bias (U.S.)
2. Alcohol Bias (U.K.)
Many, perhaps most, people working in the field of alcohol are non-drinking alcoholics. They’ve had great problems as a result of alcohol abuse.
Others in the alcohol field have suffered personal, often physical, abuse from an alcoholic. They’ve experienced economic loss because of an alcoholic loved one. Perhaps have suffered the loss of a loved one because of a drunken driver. Or they’ve otherwise been traumatized from alcohol abuse.
Some of them also publish articles and books, become leaders in the field, and thus advise politicians.
In addition, many others, such as reporters, profit from exaggerating alcohol problems. And what we fear, we tend to exaggerate. And fear sells.
1. Anti-Alcohol Bias (U.S.)
Repeal of National Prohibition occurred in 1933. However, almost four of every ten people in the U.S. still lived in states or counties with prohibition. The last state to abolish state-wide prohibition did so a third of a century after Repeal.
Letting counties maintain their own prohibition is local option. Most states permit local option today. As a result, there are hundreds of dry counties across the US. And about 18,000,000 people live in dry areas.1
The current policy of the U.S. government is to reduce the per capita consumption of alcohol. And there is much support for this.
In fact, almost one in five adults in the U.S. favors making alcohol drinking illegal. Not just for young people, but for everyone of any age for any reason.2
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded a study. It found that moderate drinkers tended to have fewer heart diseases. NIH then refused to let the Harvard researchers publish their study. It thought the findings were”socially undesirable.”3
Similarly, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) has an anti-alcohol bias. It has a huge budget. But it never funded any research on the health effects of moderate drinking. It apparently thought the results would be positive. So it resisted. Finally it took Congressional action to force the NIAAA to fund such research.4
The Alcohol Tax and Trade Bureau (ATTB) also has a strong anti-alcohol bias. It prohibits alcohol producers, distributors, or retailers from making any reference to scientific medical facts. They must remain silent on evidence about medical benefits of moderate drinking. They can’t distribute copies of the studies, summaries of them, or make reference to them. Nor can they even say “Discuss the health consequences of drinking with your physician”!5
The Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP) is a heavily-funded federal agency. Yet it has repeatedly broken the law to promote its temperance-oriented goals. The General Accountability Office (GAO) investigated CSAP. It found it was guilty of illegally using taxpayer money to lobby Congress. Shortly thereafter, the GAO again found Center guilty of illegally using taxpayer money. This time it was for grassroot lobbying.6
CSAP routinely uses tax money to break the law. It illegally
- Funded a video for activists on how to lobby.
- Published a booklet calling for (a) a 455% increase in beer taxes. (b) A reduction in the legal BAC limit. And (c) a law that beer ads be countered by taxpayer-funded anti-beer ads.
- Funded publications opposed to Designated Driver programs. That’s because those not driving could still drink.7
CSAP falsely reported that 90% of all campus rapes involve alcohol. It was a totally fake figure. Doing that would penalize a student with an F.
The agency often is deceptive. It writes that that alcohol is “the same as heroin.” Results of drinking (not intoxication) are “impaired coordination, violent behavior or depression.” From as little as a single drink!8
Moderate drinking is associated with better health and longevity than is either abstaining or drinking abusively. But CSAP describes the effects of drinking in this way.
“Brain, pancreas and kidney damage, elevated blood pressure, alcoholic hepatitis and cirrhosis of the liver. Also stomach and duodenum ulcers, colitis, irritable colon, sexual impotence and infertility, and premature death.”9
The CSAP has identified all of the following statements as sending dangerous mixed messages and to be avoided:
- Alcohol helps many people relax or be more sociable at parties.
- Any substance, in and of itself, is neither good nor bad. It is only the improper use, misuse, or abuse of substances that is bad.
- It’s fine to relax with a beer at the end of a hard day. But know your limit. Many people use alcohol in social settings to relax and to celebrate special occasions. There is nothing wrong with social drinking as long as one stays within moderation and does not drive after drinking.
- Part of growing up is learning how to make wise decisions. If you choose to drink, drink responsibly. Don’t overdo it. And don’t drink and drive.
- If you want to teach your children to be responsible with alcohol, be a responsible drinker yourself.
Correct but undesirable
CSAP sees these correct statements as undesirable. That’s because they’re inconsistent with its anti-alcohol bias.
The agency spends hundreds of millions of dollars on projects that have no measures for showing success or failure. CSAP’s grants have been called “merely a set of pork barrel programs” for political supporters.10
Dr. Christina Hoff Sommers, was invited to speak at a CSAP conference. The meeting was to discuss if the agency should fund a program called Boy Talk.
“An hour or so into the Boy Talk conference, things got ugly. The audience — largely populated by agency staff and invited consultants, CSAP grantees — was hostile to Sommers’ insistence that data be used to inform the creation of a new program. It all boiled over when one of the invited grantees yelled ‘Shut the f**k up, bitch.’ Derisive audience laughter followed. Not a word of admonition was spoken to the abusive ‘guest,’ not a murmer of apology offered to Sommers.”11
All of this from a federal agency supported by well over ten billion dollars of taxpayer money.
Not surprisingly, there are many groups that are also opposed to alcohol use. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) was formed to reduce drunken driving. But it soon became anti-alcohol.
The founding president of MADD, Candy Lightner, left the group in disgust. “It has become far more neo-prohibitionist than I ever wanted or envisioned,” she said. “I didn’t start MADD to deal with alcohol. I started MADD to deal with the issue of drunk driving.”12
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) spent over a quarter billbion dollars in just four years. That money was spent to develop and fund a nation-wide network of pro-temperance organizations, centers, activist leaders, and opinion writers. This was to promote its anti-alcohol bias. Specifically, RWJF “seeks to drive adult beverage consumption underground, away from mainstream culture and public places.”13 So it stigmatizes alcohol, de-legitimizes drinking, and marginalizes drinkers.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has long been a leading pro-temperance crusader. It despise even moderate drinking. Its health letter has stated that “the last thing the world needs is more drinkers, even moderate ones.”14 It calls for increased taxes on alcohol beverages, increased restrictions on alcohol ads, and large alcohol warning signs in restaurants.
CSPI doesn’t subject its reports to peer review. In this way, among others, it rejects science. It has disregard for even basic accuracy. CSPI is regularly deceptive and misleading. For more about this temperance-oriented group, visit the Center for Science in the Public Interest: Not Scientific and Not in the Public Interest.
After merging, the Center for Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) and Drug-Free Kids are now the Partnership to End Addiction (PEA).
Unfortunately, CASA has a long record of publicizing reports that proved to be filled with major errors. In response to one outlandish error, a leading alcohol researcher wrote
“That big an error cannot be easily dismissed as merely a careless oversight, especially when it was the focus of an institution’s own press release. Either Califano and the staff at CASA are so naive about social surveys and demography that they have no business pretending to do scientific research on them, or it was intentional misrepresentation — or both.”15
Or in simple language, CASA is almost certainly lying.16
Alcohol Justice (AJ) receives tax-money to promote its anti-alcohol agenda. This includes. It
- Promotes neo-temperance alcohol policies.
- Advocates alcohol beverage bans.
- Attacks alcohol sellers as similar to illegal drug pushers.
- Promotes the false belief that alcohol problems are increasing in the U.S. That’s in spite of the fact that they have long been declining.
- Opposes First Amendment constitutional free speech rights in pursuit of its agenda.
- Insists that alcohol producers target underage people in their ads. This, in spite of the fact that repeated Federal Trade Commission (FTC) investigations that have all concluded that they do not.17
2. Anti-Alcohol Bias (U.K.)
Here’s another example of anti-alcohol bias in action. Sallie Davies, the Chief Medical Officer of the U.K., formed a committee to review its drinking guidelines. She, herself, is anti-alcohol.18
Sallie Davies appointed Katherine Brown to the committee. Brown is director of the Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS). Davies also appointed Gerald Hastings and Petra Meier to the committee. Both are advisors to the IAS.
That may seem reasonable. But the goal of the IAS is “to spread the principles of total abstinence from alcoholic drinks.”
Davies also appointed Ian Gilmore to the committee. He’s chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance. Gilmore hopes to bring about a total ban of all alcohol beverage ads.19
She also appointed Mark Bellis, after he wrote that the drinking guidelines were much too high. And she appointed Neo-prohibitionist John Holmes.
And as an adviser to the committee, she chose Tim Stockwell. Perhaps because “Stockwell is the world’s most persistent and prominent critic of the evidence showing that moderate alcohol consumption saves lives.”20
Light/Moderate Drinking Beneficial
The best measure of health and longevity is all-cause mortality. Research has clearly shown that light and moderate drinkers tend to live longer than both abstainers and heavy drinkers. But they ignored all-cause death rates. Instead, they focused on death from “chronic alcohol-related causes.” For more, see Drinking Guidelines.
A. Web Pages
- Alcohol and Health: Medical Findings for Health and Long Life
- Beer is Better than Milk for Good Health & Weight: So are Wine & Distilled Spirits (Liquor).
- Beer vs Cola: Which is Better for Health?
- Calories, Carbs, and Fats in Popular Beverages.
- If You Can’t Say Something Bad About Alcohol, Don’t Say Anything!
- Farrar, D. Capture by activists. kiwiblog.com, March 1, 2016.
- Haylor, M. The Vision of a Century, 1853-1953. The United Kingdom Alliance. London, UK Alliance, 1953. (Background of IAS.)
- O’Neill, S. Anti-drink lobby drew up official safety limits. Controversial guidance ‘˜induces public fear.’ Sunday Times, May 30, 2016.
- Smart, L. Alcohol and Human Health. Oxford: Oxford U Press, 2017.
5. ATTB website.
6. Schlieckau, J. Ending Taxpayer-Subsidized Lobbying by Neo-Prohibitionists. Kompendium der Deutschen Alkolpolitik. Hamberg: Diplomica Verlag, 2015
8. CSAP. A Toolkit for Hispanic/Latino Community Groups. Wash: SAMSHA. See table “Learn About Alcohol, Tobacco, & Illicit Drugs.”
12. Haider-Markel, D. Legislating Morality in America. Santa Barbera: ABC-CLIO, 2020, p. 77.
14. CSPI website. Also the Am. Radicalism Collection at Michigan State has a file of clippings on CSPI.
15. Dr. Dwight Heath said it well. Califano wrote that “we have here at CASA the brightest group of people that have been ever put under one roof on this planet to deal with this problem.” Then it appears that the “errors” are most probably intentional.
18. Singleton, N. The Great Alcohol Cover-up. April 11, 2016.
19. Snowdon, C. No wonder Britain’s alcohol guidelines are so extreme – just look at who drafted them. Spectator Health, Feb 25, 2016.
At this point, you know far more than most people why ant-alcohol bias is so widespread. So congratulations!