About the Alcohol Policies Project

Alcohol Policies Home

In 1981, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) launched the Alcohol Policies Project to help focus public and policy maker attention on high-leverage policy reforms to reduce the devastating health and social consequences of drinking.  Since then, the project has worked with thousands of organizations and individuals to promote a comprehensive, prevention-oriented policy strategy to change the role of alcohol in society.

Center for Science in the Public Interest
Alcohol Policies Project

1220 L St. NW, Suite 300

Washington, DC  20005

Phone: 202-332-9110, Fax: 202-265-4954

 

Background

Alcohol-related problems cost American society nearly $200 billion per year and cause as many as 100,000 deaths annually.  Alcohol is a major cause of premature death in the United States and a primary contributor to a wide array of health problems and human suffering.  These include various cancers, liver disease, alcoholism, brain disorders, motor vehicle crashes, violence, crime, spousal and child abuse, fires, and suicides.

 

The alcoholic-beverage industry's relentless marketing and powerful political influence, coupled with ineffective government alcohol policies, contribute to this ongoing public health and safety epidemic.

 

In addressing alcohol problems, policy makers routinely have promoted a variety of education, law enforcement and rehabilitation programs that zero in on a few highly visible alcohol issues that concern individual drinking behavior.  They have devoted little attention to public health policy measures that promise to help reduce alcohol problems across the board.  These measures include implementing reforms of alcohol marketing and advertising to reduce the pressure on young people and heavy drinkers to drink, increasing excise taxes to reduce overall consumption particularly among price-sensitive young consumers and expanding requirements for the labeling of alcoholic beverages to provide consumers with a better balance of information about the drug they are consuming.

 

 

CURRENT PROJECT INITIATIVES

 

Advertising and Promotion Reforms

CSPI proposals support restrictions on the time, place and manner of alcohol advertising.  We oppose promotions and advertising aimed at college students; alcohol-company sponsorships of rock concerts and college sports; and the use of celebrities and youth-oriented characters in alcohol ads.

 

Together with dozens of other national groups, CSPI has promoted legislation to require all broadcast and print ads for alcohol to carry rotating health and safety messages and to mandate "counter-ads" on television to balance advertising's glamorized view of drinking and provide information about the risks involved.

 

 

Efforts to Adjust Excise Taxes

CSPI supports raising alcohol taxes and indexing them so that they will increase at the rate of inflation.  Such increases will allow governments to reclaim a valuable source of revenue, as well as to reduce alcohol consumption and harm among young people.  CSPI also supports policy efforts to raise alcohol taxes at the state and local level and has published numerous action materials to empower such reforms.

 

During the 1980s, CSPI and dozens of other organizations campaigned to raise federal alcohol excise taxes.  Our efforts paid off in federal liquor tax increases in 1986 and 1991, and in beer and wine tax hikes for the first time in 40 years in 1991.  Not surprisingly, tax rates still fail miserably to compensate for the costs of alcohol problems to society.  As states find their budgets in the red, we again push for alcohol excise tax increases to supplement state revenues and reduce alcohol-related health problems and expenses.

 

 

Grassroots Alcohol Advocacy
CSPI's Grassroots Alcohol Advocacy Initiative expands our assistance to grassroots anti-drug and alcohol coalitions and helps create cadres of well-informed and motivated community leaders who promote alcohol prevention policies.  The project provides technical assistance, training, and communications skill development.

 

Goals include:

  • To provide an understanding of policy initiatives and voluntary actions that can be undertaken to reduce youth drinking

  • To improve data collection on alcohol problems within communities

  • To document and analyze resistance to alcohol policy reforms

  • To develop "town-gown" relationships that will help reduce levels of heavy drinking in college communities

  • To cultivate the assistance of community leaders police chiefs, mayors, school superintendents, and others who can advance alcohol-policy initiatives

  • To expand the systematic monitoring of local alcohol advertising

  • To strengthen groups' capacities to use the media effectively to communicate their actions and ideas

Current Grassroots topics cover:

  • Increasing alcohol excise taxes

  • Educating communities about the effects of alcohol marketing on children

  • Decreasing the presence of outdoor advertisements for alcoholic products

  • Building opposition to alcohol marketing in sports

  • Combating the expansion of liquor advertising in broadcast television

  • Moderating the impact on children of new youth-oriented alcoholic-beverage products, such as alcopops

  • Opposing the expansion of liquor sales on Sundays

 

Changes in Label Warnings and Point-of-Sale Health Warnings
Since 1989, health and safety warning labels on alcoholic-beverage containers have alerted consumers to the risks of drinking during pregnancy and drinking and driving.  Since then, CSPI has taken the lead in opposing wine-industry efforts to permit health claims on alcohol labels and, in 1999, petitioned the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) for a major design overhaul in the Congressionally-mandated warning label to make it more conspicuous and easy-to-read and understand. In November 2002, ATF rejected CSPI's proposal.

 

CSPI now leads a nationwide campaign to urge all states to enact legislation requiring point-of-purchase alcohol health warning signs as part of an overall alcohol-prevention strategy.

 

 

Strengthen Government Focus on Alcohol as a Major Youth Drug Problem

CSPI led legislative efforts to secure funding to expand the national anti-drug media campaign to include alcohol-prevention messages.  The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) spends nearly $200 million per year on its media campaign, focusing on marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and other drugs, ignoring alcohol, by far the leading drug problem among young people.  CSPI now leads efforts to implement a national media campaign to reduce underage drinking.

 

 

Time to End Alcohol Marketing in Sports
CSPI leads a national campaign to promote voluntary and governmental policies and actions to eliminate alcohol sponsorship of collegiate, Olympic, and professional sports.

 

February 2003

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Center for Science in the Public Interest

Alcohol Policies Project

1220 L St. NW, Suite 300

Washington, DC  20005

Phone: 202-332-9110 * Fax: 202-265-4954 * Web: www.cspinet.org/booze