California Alcohol Problems Drain $38 Billion Annually

Thursday, July 24, 2008 General News
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LOS ANGELES, July 23 Marin Institute, thealcohol industry watchdog, held a news conference and town hall meeting in LosAngeles today to release the disturbing findings of its landmark report, TheAnnual Catastrophe of Alcohol in California. Such a comprehensive study hasnever been done in California.

Before a large gathering of public health experts, policymakers, andcommunity activists, digital clocks ticked away in real time the incredibleeconomic costs ($1,200 per second or $38.4 billion annually), incidents ofharm (100 per hour or 921,928 annually) and deaths (1 per hour or 9,439annually).

Marin's study calculates that moderate-to-high alcohol consumption inCalifornia is costing roughly $1,000 per resident. By comparison, tobaccocosts California approximately $550 per resident. The study also estimates$25.3 billion in lost productivity and reduced earnings.

"What makes these study results both so complex and so tragic is howalcohol-related harm takes so many forms and affects so many lives," saidMichele Simon, Marin Institute research and policy director. Simon co-authoredthe report with Ted Miller of the Pacific Institute for Research andEvaluation and Simon Rosen, Marin Institute research analyst.

Marin Institute compared the economic losses to those from naturaldisasters and concluded that alcohol costs far outpace earthquakes and fires.Unlike earthquakes, fires, floods and mudslides, which come alonginfrequently, the catastrophe of alcohol in California happens annually, withdevastating effects, and can be prevented." Rosen noted.

The study also estimates an additional $48.8 billion in quality of lifecosts, due to the pain and suffering of victims and families. "These harms arenot just economic, they are also deeply personal. Quantifying the pain andsuffering endured by numerous people from alcohol harm may be the mostcompelling result of this study," Rosen added.

Librarian and community activist, Manya Anderson, a life-long resident ofSouth Los Angeles, continues to witness firsthand the devastation of alcoholin her own family as well as in the communities of South L.A. "As residents,it is clear to us that both African American and Latino families have bornethe brunt of the alcohol industry's sale of liquor in our communities. Moreliquor in our community means poor health and a lack of safety."

California State Senator Mark Ridley-Thomas (D-Los Angeles) observed that"Whether it's consumed as a vintage wine from a prestigious appellation or afortified variant, a micro-brew or malt liquor, an alcopop or high-enddistilled spirit, alcohol's cost is much more than the price paid for a drinkat the corner liquor store or neighborhood bar." He added, "As a legislator,I am looking forward to engaging my colleagues along with representatives ofthe industry in a discussion of the report's findings and recommendations."

Marin Institute is calling for a number of steps to reverse thecatastrophe, including higher alcohol taxes to reduce excessive consumptionand the related harm and costs. While the harmful cost of alcohol is equal to$2.80 per drink, current alcohol taxes come to only 8 cents per drink. "Thealcohol lobby has been very effective in minimizing their taxes and fees tojust 1.7 percent of their income from sales," noted Bruce Livingston, MarinInstitute's executive director. "It's time we hold Big Alcohol accountable bygetting them to pay their fair share."

Jonathan E. Fielding, M.D., MPH, Public Health Officer and Director of theCounty of Los Angeles Public Health Department said, "Marin Institute's reportis a much needed reminder of the harm and costs associated with alcoholconsumption in California."

The study will be published next month by the peer-reviewed journal,Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. To download study findingsvisit

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