April is Alcohol Awareness Month:
Alcohol Facts You’ll Never Hear from Big Booze
• The alcoholic-beverage industry relies on heavy and addicted drinking for the
largest share of its profits. Hazardous drinking (5 or more drinks at one sitting)
accounts for more than half of the alcohol industry’s $155 billion market, and
more than 75% of the beer industry’s market.1
• Underage alcohol use is more likely to kill young people than all illegal drugs
combined.2 More than 1,700 college students in the U.S. are killed each year—
about 4.65 a day—as a result of alcohol-related injuries.3
• Underage drinking spawns the future heavy and addicted drinking on which the
industry depends for most of its sales. People who begin drinking before age 15
are four times more likely to develop alcohol dependence at some time in their
lives compared with those who have their first drink at age 20 or older.4
• Nearly 14 million Americans – one in every 13 adults -- abuse alcohol or are
alcoholic.5 Fewer than 25% of those who need treatment get it in a given year.
• Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) are the leading preventable cause of
birth defects in the U.S., affecting as many as 40,000 babies per year and costing
upwards of $5.4 billion per year.6
• Some 75 percent of husbands or wives who abuse their spouses have been
drinking prior to or at the time of the abuse.
• Health risks of drinking include increased incidence of cancers of the liver,
esophagus, throat, and larynx (voice box), as well as liver cirrhosis, immune
system problems, brain damage, and heart problems.
• To avoid health risks associated with alcohol, the U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) advise
those who drink to do so in moderation – defined as consuming no more than
one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men.
• Alcohol is implicated in the deaths of some 85,000 Americans every year, making
it the nation's third leading cause of preventable death after smoking and obesity.
• Drunk driving accounts for about 16,000 alcohol-related deaths per year, only
about 25% of all alcohol-related deaths. One-quarter of all emergency room
admissions, one-third of all suicides, and more than half of all homicides and
incidents of domestic violence are alcohol-related.
• Alcohol-related problems cost the U.S. economy an estimated $185 billion per
year in lost productivity and earnings due to alcohol-related illness, premature
death, and crime.
• Television ads for alcohol products outnumber “responsibility” messages by 32 to
one. From 2001 to 2003 the industry spent $2.5 billion on television product
advertising, and only $27 million on “responsibility” programs.7
• The number of distilled spirits ads on cable networks grew 5,687% between 2001
and 2004, from 645 to 37,328. Distilled spirits spending on cable network
advertising grew 3,392%, from $1.5 million to $53.6 million in that period. The
number of cable network alcohol ads that exceeded the industry’s 30% underage
audience threshold nearly doubled to 18,027 in 2004, up from 9,235 in 2001.8
• The alcoholic-beverage industry so far contributed nearly $4 million to federal
candidates and parties in the 2006 election cycle alone.9 Contributions from the
National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA) account for nearly 40% of this
amount. In the 2005-2006 election cycle, the NBWA’s political action committee
(PAC) is the second largest of all PACs, next to the National Association of
• More than half (260) of the U.S. House of Representatives members seeking reelection
in the 2006 campaign cycle took contributions from the NBWA (nearly
20% of recipients took $10,000 or more).
1 Rogers, J. & Greenfield, T. Beer drinking accounts for most of the hazardous alcohol consumption
reported in the United States. Journal of Studies on Alcohol 60(6): 732-739. 1999. Greenfield, T.
Consumption and risk patterns: Who buys and who pays? Paper presented at the Winter School US market.
Impact.26 (14/15): 7-8, July 15/August 1, 1996. Themba, M. in the Sun, Brisbane, Australia, July 1-4, 1996
(available from the Alcohol Research Group, Public Health Institute, 1000 Hearst Ave., Suite 300,
Berkeley, CA 94709).
2 Grunbaum, J.A.; Kann, L.; Kinchen, S.A.; et al. Youth risk behavior surveillance: United States, 2001.
MMWR: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 51(SS0 4): 1–62, 2002. (6) Young, S.E.; Corley, R.P.;
Stallings, M.C.; et al. Substance use, abuse and dependence in adolescence: Prevalence, symptom profiles
and correlates. Drug and Alcohol Dependence 68(3):309–322, 2002.
3 Magnitude of Alcohol-Related Mortality and Morbidity Among U.S. College Students Ages 18-24:
Changes from 1998 to 2001; Ralph Hingson, Timothy Heeren, Michael Winter, Henry Wechsler; Annual
Review of Public Health, April 2005, Vol. 26: pp. 259-279.
4 Grant, B.F., and Dawson, D.A. Age of onset of alcohol use and its association with DSM–IV alcohol
abuse and dependence: Results from the National Longitudinal Alcohol Epidemiologic Survey. Journal of
Substance Abuse 9:103–110, 1997.
5 National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), Strategic Plan 2001-2005.
6 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services
Administration (SAMHSA) FASD Center for Excellence, 2003.
7 Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth. “Alcohol Industry Responsibility Advertising on Television,
2001 to 2003.” (2005)
8 “Alcohol Advertising on Television, 2001-2004: The Move to Cable,” Center on Alcohol Marketing and
Youth (December, 2005).
9 OpenSecrets.org (http://www.opensecrets.org/industries/contrib.asp?Ind=N0
Reprinted from the internet originally printed in 2006 still
appropriate for today