“Beer Called Most Serious Alcohol Problem,” Ensign, Nov. 1988, 112
Charging that beer is “America’s greatest alcohol problem,” a Church spokesman recently called for tighter controls on the sale of the popular alcoholic drink.
Richard P. Lindsay, managing director of public communications and special affairs for the Church, addressed the problem while speaking at the annual meeting of the American Council on Alcohol Problems (ACAP) held in Midway, Utah, on September 20.
Stiffer regulation of beer sales would “contain the rampant consumption, widespread availability, and epidemic problems” caused by America’s beer consumption, Brother Lindsay said.
“From ball parks to beaches, new laws and rules have slowly been emerging to better control this beverage and its consequences,” he said, citing recent successful efforts to control the sale and consumption of beer.
He mentioned tough beer-control efforts by the San Francisco Giants baseball club, the beach city of Santa Cruz, California, and others.
“Such implementations have proved successful and are slowly becoming more recognized and widespread,” Brother Lindsay said.
While the consumption of wine and distilled spirits cause similar tragedy and heartache, beer accounts for more than half of all alcohol consumed in the United States.
“Beer is not only the main beverage through which alcohol is consumed, but also the alcohol of choice among high school and college-age youth,” Brother Lindsay pointed out. “It is the most promulgated and least regulated of all alcoholic products.”
He noted that 5.8 billion gallons of beer were consumed in the U.S. in 1986, which adds up to more than 24 gallons for every man, woman, and child in the country. “That’s more than the per capita consumption of fruit juices, drink mixes, wine, and distilled spirits combined.”
Even though retail beer sales in 1986 totaled more than $39 billion, that figure pales alongside the estimated $120 billion in alcohol-abuse social costs, Brother Lindsay said. These costs include death, reduced productivity, lost employment, health care, vehicle accidents, crime, and incarceration.
He condemned “the unrelenting flood of beer advertising,” the “virtually unlimited availability and nearly unregulated distribution” of beer, and “the infusion of beer into the very fabric of American culture.”
Decrying the linkage of beer advertising to sports, including college athletics, Brother Lindsay said such promotion has a particularly negative effect on young people. “Our youth are bombarded with beer advertising.” They are “deluged with advertisements for a product they cannot legally purchase or consume.”
In 1987, $847 million was spent to advertise beer in the United States.
In “Myths, Men & Beer,” a recent study sponsored by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, researchers observed that “beer commercials promote a particular view of what it means to be a man … that to be a real man in American culture—and accepted among other men—one must drink beer. … In our view, this is a powerful, distorted, and dangerous message to broadcast to young people.”
Brother Lindsay pointed out that beer is much easier to obtain than wines or spirits. Besides the “obvious places such as bars, clubs, and liquor stores,” he said, “beer can be purchased at grocery and convenience stores, mini-markets, and, most shockingly, many gas stations.”
Beer has been infused deeply into the American culture. A recent issue of Sports Illustrated chronicled what has become a “cozy connection” between beer and sports:
“Whatever angle you view it from, beer and sport have come to be as inseparable in the American lexicon as mom and apple pie.”
Brother Lindsay quoted Dr. Jerry Caldwell, director of the Alaska Sports Medicine Clinic, who called the sports-beer connection “‘blatant and apparently acceptable commercial exploitation of our youth by drug merchants.
“‘Lest we forget, alcohol is the no. 1 drug of abuse in the United States,’” Dr. Caldwell had noted, pointing out that “‘there are about 13 million alcoholics in this country and over 3 million of them are in the 14–17 age group.’”
Brother Lindsay went on to decry the recent “higher stature of respectability and social acceptance” of beer, which he said has apparently shed its “blue-collar” image.
He also criticized the “political and economic clout” of the beer and alcohol industries.
“While maximizing coalition and grass-roots support,” he said, “the beer and alcohol industries have become major marketers in political and campaign donations.”
He commended the ACAP members for their “courage and moral character” in seeking ways and means to limit the damage done to society by the sale and consumption of beer and other alcoholic beverages.