Should alcohol manufacturers be held responsible for alcoholism?

Alcoholic energy drinks in the U.S. are virtually off the market, thanks partly to legal cases against manufacturers. Alcoholic energy drinks like “Sparks” came under considerable criticism from state attorney generals and consumer groups alike. So if the manufacturers of alcohol are so dedicated to the cause of alcohol responsibility, why aren’t corporations creating funds to support recovery? Come consider this and other questions about social culpability.

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In the latest international weekly round-up of the Wall Street Journal, I found cause for celebration: Millercoors, LLC will no longer be selling alcoholic energy drinks in the U.S.  The President of the company, Tom Long, was quoted saying,

“We are always willing to listen to societal partners and consider changes to our business to reinforce our commitment to alcohol responsibility.”

This came after more than 12 different state attorney generals filed suit against the company.

It seems VERY unlikely to me that MillerCoors is acting out of any great beneficence or concern for greater public health … but from fear of larger and growing repercussions.  Mainly legal.  The potential health risks of alcohol mixed with caffeine are enormous, not the least being a misperception of just how drunk you actually are when you drink something like ‘Sparks’. And MillerCoors is not alone.  Competitor Anheuser-Busch InBev removed their caffeinated alcoholic drinks from the market earlier this year after legal questions were raised about a similar alcoholic energy drink.*

Which brings me to the nagging question that’s been tailing me for years now.  Why AREN’T the manufacturers of alcohol consistently or at least largely held responsible for societal effects of alcoholism and alcohol abuse?  I mean, this went down with cigarette manufacturers last decade.  And nearly every manufacturer of anything has mandatory warning labels applied to boxes, wrapping or the products themselves.  But as far as I know, no one has pointed the finger or demanded remittance from the producers of booze.

What do you think?   If they’re so dedicated to the cause of alcohol responsibility, why aren’t corporations creating funds to support recovery?  Are makers of wine, liquor and beer getting off easy?  In a consumer society with some accountability, should we start demanding change?  What might be done?  Or are alcoholics alone responsible for their own sobriety?

*The legal case against caffeinated beverages was also gaining ground among consumer advocates (like myself) because such products were obviously aimed at young people.  MillerCoors can deny it.  But come on – this trend was piggybacking off the popularity of the Red Bull & vodka craze in the clubs – NOT dudes with beer bellies grabbing a six-pack of Sparks from 7-11 on their way to plunk down in front of Monday night football.  No, this beverage was created and intended to be consumed by Friday and Saturday night kids wanting to get a buzz on.  That they erroneously started believing that they might counter the effects of alcohol with the fatigue blocking chemistry of caffeine (a.k.a. energy) just adds fuel to the legal fire.
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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