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Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Drunks Prefer Beer, says scientific study done by scientists

Have you seen this AP story by Mike Stobbe? It's about a study done by researchers at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that found binge drinkers are more likely to drink beer than liquor or wine. "The study of adult binge drinkers found that nearly 75 percent mainly or exclusively drank beer, 17 percent focused on liquor, and 9 percent were wine drinkers." When the study looked at people who weren't exclusive in their drinking choices, "bingers who drank a variety of beverages, for example, a few after-work beers, a cocktail before dinner and wine with dinner," the numbers shifted: "beer accounted for 67 percent of binge drinks consumed, liquor for 22 percent and wine for 11 percent."

Keep in mind that if you have two cold beers while grilling the steaks, a third of a bottle of cabernet with dinner, and then sip a dram of single malt while perusing the latest issue of the Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report (the CDC's death journal)'re a binge drinker.

Hmmm... "binge" is defined by Merriam-Webster as "1 a : a drunken revel : SPREE b : an unrestrained and often excessive indulgence (a buying binge) c : an act of excessive or compulsive consumption (as of food) 2 : a social gathering." The etymology: "English dialect binge (to drink heavily)." Does that evening of drinking, eating, and deep mind improvement sound like a drunken revel or an act of excessive or compulsive consumption to you?

In any case, my point here is that I fail to see why this is news. The CDC researchers speculated that beer may be the choice of drunks -- I'm sorry, bingers -- because it is cheaper, more easily available, and more heavily advertised than liquor; speculation which is reported as conclusive fact in some of the local treatments of this AP story.

Folks: beer is the most common choice of all drinkers in the U.S., by a large margin. Admittedly, the margin on these "bingers" is higher; beer sales are closer to two-thirds than three-quarters of the total. But it's no mystery why binge drinkers prefer beer: Americans prefer beer.

Which brings up the other half of this interesting release of information: teen-aged underage drinkers prefer liquor. It's not really surprising. Think about it. Teens have been told that alcohol is a drug. They're told that "hard" liquor has much more alcohol in it. Even the dullest teen knows that the common mainstream lager beers have to be refrigerated to be palatable, while liquor can be kept at room temperature indefinitely, consumed at that temperature, or added to cold soft drinks just before drinking. They know that drinking is a crime for them, that they can't do it in public, and that they often have limited time to get a load on-board.

Well, duh: what's going to be the drink of choice for concealment, speed of effect, and ease of use? Put another way: what's easier to conceal in your jacket pocket or glove compartment, one 500 ml bottle of vodka, or ten 16 oz. cans of beer? Even an anti-alcohol fanatic could figure that one out. It's the Iron Law of Prohibition, the same inevitable reduction that gave us crack cocaine. It's easy enough to understand, which is why the popularity of keg registration laws with anti-alcohol policy wonks is so mystifying. Look for liquor registration laws to be proposed soon...

Oh. No. Wait a minute. Liquor and wine registration laws won't be on the agenda. Some of the policy types drink that stuff.

Snobbishness and class assumptions about beer, wine, and liquor are stupid, offensive, and ill-informed. The real take-home from this piece is that the choices of binge drinkers roughly parallel the choices of moderate drinkers. Drinking one particular type of tonsil-oil doesn't make you better or worse than anyone else.


Unknown said...

I totally agree with your post. I just posted today on my blog about this very same article.

It's ridiculous to cast such a wide net as they have, and to categorize "binge drinkers" so broadly.

I attended a Belgian beer tasting and food pairing a month or so ago, where we had 5 beers with 5 courses. According to this article, attending that event defines me as a binge drinker.

Totally nuts.

Further, it opens up a whole can of worms regarding future beer legislation and government action to try and curtail binge drinking by restricting access to the popular binge drinking beverage - beer.

I think your point about beer being the most popular alcoholic beverage period, and thus being the most popular binge beverage by extension, is right on.

Jeff Linkous said...

I thought this story was a disservice on several levels, a lot of sizzle, no steak in the pan.

Sadly, it's the kind of story editors at big news outlets (like AP) want these days because its success can be gauged by how many mouse clicks it will generate: how often it will get emailed and how much chatter on discussion boards it will spur.

It's also the kind of twaddle that catches the eye of TV news health reporters who overreach to localize it and deliver their report in voices dressed up with touchy-feely concern that beer is the new cobblestone in our society's path to ruin.

And I, too, thought it was more noteworthy that minors reached for liquor instead of beer.

The flavor of beer can be, after all, bitter and somewhat unpleasant to the uninitiated palate, while liquor's taste can be dressed up, disguised and generally made invisible for über-bingeing, a la Everclear in Kool-Aid.

That's bigger news, especially since Tennessee enacted a law last month to card anyone buying beer regardless of age (you can be 102 and still get carded, but the law doesn't apply to liquor or wine), plus towns and 25 states adopting ordinances/laws for keg registration.