January 8, 2023
Regarding “More drinking, more deaths” (Justin Fox, Dec. 31), there’s no doubt the pandemic was stressful, but it is misleading to say that it “drove a lot of Americans to drink” and that “the drinking binge has continued.”
The majority of adults who drink do so responsibly, and important progress has been made in reducing harmful consumption.
The National Survey on Drug Use and Health indicates more than eight out of 10 U.S. adults drink the same or less than they did pre-pandemic and that binge drinking among adults declined 6% from 2016-2020. Additionally, a 2022 Gallup poll showed that Americans consumed an average of 4.0 drinks per week in 2019, pre-pandemic, compared with 3.9 drinks in 2022.
It is also inaccurate to imply that recent increases in alcohol-attributable deaths are linked to pandemic drinking. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explicitly states that such data should not be used to determine if death estimates have changed over time, because of changes in calculation methods.
The distilled spirits industry opposes alcohol abuse and supports targeted, evidence-based approaches to make further progress, including screenings and brief interventions by health professionals.
Raising alcohol taxes as a deterrent is misguided. Recent research showed an alcohol tax hike in Illinois resulted in consumers merely switching to cheaper products, not reducing overall alcohol consumption. Higher taxes will unfairly burden hospitality businesses slowly rebounding amid new challenges, including inflation and staff shortages. These businesses need support from legislators to create jobs and generate much-needed tax revenue.
Adults who consume alcohol should follow the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which recommends limiting alcohol to one drink per day for females and two per day for males. While a cocktail with friends during a Zoom happy hour was a source of great joy for many adults during the pandemic, it’s important to talk to a health care provider and seek out resources (e.g. the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP) if drinking is impacting relationships or daily routines.
Editor’s note: Berger is vice president of science and health with the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, a national trade association.