Thursday, November 29, 2012

Alcohol taxes & the "fiscal cliff"

Alcohol Justice, an alcohol industry watchdog group, is suggesting that underage drinking prevention advocates ask Congress to increase alcohol taxes.

Did you know that since 1991, the Big Alcohol lobby has cost the U.S. $57 billion in revenue?  

Or that an alcohol tax increase could fill nearly 12% of the President's revenue portion of the nation's ten-year deficit reduction goal? 

It's time to tell our national leaders to hold Big Alcohol accountable and get them to pay their fair share to help reduce the deficit. The fiscal catastrophe of alcohol-related harm will be reversed with a per-drink tax increase of 10 cents on spirits, 15 cents on beer, and 18 cents on wine. Alcohol is unlike other products because consuming it causes great harm to the general public and great costs to government. Click here to tell our federal officials now that alcohol taxes should be increased to reimburse government for part of the cost of alcohol-related health and public safety services. 

Read more of Alcohol Justice's new policy brief on alcohol taxes here.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The role of public policy in preventing underage substance use

Community coalitions like Prevention WINS advocate for policies that are proven to prevent underage drinking and substance abuse.  Below are a few examples.

While consumers may complain about the cost of alcohol since the approval of Initiative 1183 last year, high prices are actually good when it comes to preventing underage drinking.

Raising alcohol excise taxes can help deter young people from drinking, according to a leading expert on preventing drinking in youth.

“These taxes prevent and reduce drinking and death among young people, as well as among heavy drinkers,” says David H. Jernigan, PhD, Associate Professor and Director, Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth (CAMY), Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, who has conducted research on the effect of the taxes.

“When alcohol is cheaper at the corner store than milk, orange juice or sometimes even water, it sends young people the wrong message,” Jernigan says. “It makes alcohol look like an ordinary commodity when it is not.” He notes that prices on alcohol used to be much higher than those on other beverages. The most important factor in the price drop has been the inability of alcohol taxes to keep up with inflation.

State Alcohol Policy Changes

The Alcohol Policy Information System (APIS) has updated its list of state alcohol policies to reflect substantive changes that occurred last year. The list is available online.

Many of the state policy changes are consistent with the goal of reducing underage drinking and its consequences, as well as the goal of reducing alcohol-related death and injury in the general population, according to APIS.

Changes to state alcohol policies include an increase in Connecticut’s excise taxes for beer, wine and distilled spirits and Mississippi’s prohibition against hosting underage drinking parties.

Law Enforcement
Policies are only effective if they are enforced.  This story, Laws to Crack Down on Serving Intoxicated People in Bars Largely Ignored, provides a good example.

A recent study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health supports previous studies that show that, when enforced, laws meant to prevent and reduce underage drinking can be effective.  

Friday, November 23, 2012

Improving school performance by improving mental health

The Spring 2012 edition of Better: Evidence-Based Education focuses on healthy bodies and healthy minds.  The topic for this edition was chosen because "physical and mental health can make a difference to student test scores . . . A host of simple evidence-based changes to the way we parent and school our children can boost their physical and mental health, which in turn will help them to learn."

Several of the articles discuss preventing youth substance abuse, a risk factor for school failure.  This edition of Better features Life Skills Training, an evidence-based curriculum that is taught at Eckstein Middle School (part of the Prevention WINS coalition); includes an article entitled, "Addressing school effects on drug use"; and provides information (from the University of Washington's Social Development Research Group) about how parents can help prevent problem behaviors.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

I-1183: expectation vs. reality

Earlier this month, a group of 23 people representing NE Seattle participated in the annual Washington State Prevention Summit in Yakima.  Three student teams were part of the NE Seattle delegation representing Eckstein Middle School, Nathan Hale High School, and Roosevelt High School.  Youth and adults learned about the latest substance abuse trends and how to develop and conduct prevention activities in their communities.

Some youth and adult workshop handouts are now available through the Prevention Summit website.

Among the handouts are ones from an adult workshops about the effects of Initiative 1183 that privatized the sale of spirits/hard alcohol and deregulated other aspects of our state's liquor system.  Here are a few of the slides from the presentation.

More information about the implementation of I-1183 is available on the Washington State Liquor Control Board website.  The Proposed Rules page includes information about defining "trade area" and the Recently Adopted Rules page includes new rules related to I-1183 including the delivery of spirits/hard alcohol to homes.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

King County Take Back Your Meds Coalition launches Facebook page

In May, the King County Board of Health formed a Subcommittee on Secure Medicine Return to explore how it can support safe disposal of unused and expired medicines.  In response, a King County Take Back Your Meds Coalition was formed to advocate for a secure medicine return program in the county.  Prevention WINS and other youth substance abuse prevention coalitions are members of the King County Take Back Your Meds Coalition (KC-TBYM).

Since its formation, KC-TBYM coalition members have testified at subcommittee meetings, met with subcommittee members, and started educating community members about the issue.

Recently, the KC-TBYM coalition launched a Facebook page as a way to share information.  Check out the Facebook page and "like" it if you wish to remain up-to-date on KC-TBYM coalition activities.

If you are interested in joining the KC-TBYM Coalition, please contact the Prevention WINS Coordinator.

To learn more about secure medicine return programs and legislation, visit the Washington State Take Back Your Meds website.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Liquor shoplifting "epidemic" & increasingly violent

Updated 11/13/12

Here is another story about shoplifting of hard alcohol that some say is becoming "epidemic" and more violent.

The switch to private liquor sales has made it easier for shoppers to get their hands on booze, but it's also made it easier for crooks.

In the past several months, police have noticed a growing trend of brazen liquor thefts. The shoplifting has become so rampant that some say it's practically an epidemic.

"The shoplifters are more bold, they tend not to care and they're getting more violent with security officers," said assistant Seattle City Attorney Jana Jorgensen.

Law enforcement officials say the thefts are happening every day in every city at nearly every grocery store. A source claims one Queen Anne grocer has lost $1,000 a day since June. That's $150,000 in lost profits and stolen tax revenue for the state, and that's just one store.

"There is a number of rings out there working, stealing alcohol," said King County sheriff's office spokesperson Cindi West. "It's a quick way to make a buck and easy to get rid of."

And then there is this from the Seattle Police Department:

Major Crimes Task Force detectives have arrested six people as part of an investigation into widespread liquor theft in the Seattle area, including several people who were buying booze stolen from Seattle stores to resell to high schoolers and wedding parties.

. . . An 18-year-old . . . ordered up 120 supposedly stolen bottles of liquor from police. Detectives made their delivery, and immediately arrested the teen.

After his arrest, the 18-year-old man told detectives he was reselling the liquor to Seattle high school students.

As a result of Operation Cheapshots, detectives arrested six people, and booked four of them into the King County Jail for investigation of trafficking stolen property.

MCTF also recovered 451 bottles of liquor and 11 firearms as a result of the operation.

This provides a stark example of an unintended consequence of making a drug more available and easily accessible.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

American teens report alcohol & cigarettes are the most readily available drugs

Between 31% and 50% of teenagers report that they can get alcohol, cigarettes, prescription drugs to get high, or marijuana within a day or less, according to data from a 2012 national survey.  Legal and regulated alcohol and cigarettes were the most readily accessible and youth were least likely to report that they could get marijuana within a day.

These findings were provided by the Center for Substance Abuse Research.

Changing behavior by changing community environments

Though this 5 minute video from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) focuses on food policy, those of us who work to prevent youth substance abuse can learn from it.

In the video, Dr. Wansink discusses:

  • How we can change behavior by changing the environment in which people live, work and play.  People are highly influenced by the things around them.
  • That even small barriers to accessing unhealthy foods give people pause to reconsider if they should eat it or not.  (The same is true for drugs and alcohol.)
  • The importance of "small p" policy such as putting healthy foods first in a school cafeteria.  While large scale ("big P") public policy is important, small scale policy implemented in community organizations, schools and neighborhoods play an important role, as well.