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.

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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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  1. If a any drug dealer sells to someone and that person dies they are charge with murder ,212 people died yesterday form achol related deaths no charges were filed against the manufacturer or the government who also profited form these deaths! What makes
    them above the law,a narcotic is a man made substance according to the statute but some how they get away with sell it?

  2. Should companies that sell alcohol be held financially responsible (to some extent) for the anguish, pain, damage, and heartbreak that the use of their products produces in society? Absolutely. Saying otherwise is likened unto saying that the drug dealer on the corner should be held blameless for selling his particular mind altering substance. Also, we should really repeal any sort of punishment to the tobacco industry. Of course, everyone loves their alcohol, so nothing will ever be done… PS. (If anyone actually reads this) look up the effects of Prohibition on crime and domestic violence… Supposedly both plummeted!! Think about that… Let me say it again, crime and domestic violence PLUMMETED! Sure, people still drank illegally, which is why we mistakenly say Prohibition was a failure. But the facts and stats don’t jive. Also, jail’s weren’t getting much business, either… just saying.

  3. Yes, all alcohol production companies and affiliates should bear a high degree of financial responsibility for the millions and millions of souls who not only consume their products but are consumed by their products. Alcohol production, and promotion, is the ultimate abuse of humankind.”

  4. If your argument is that Alcohol is regulated, and prcautinary steps are taken to maintain a healthy lifestyle for people. Why is Alcoholism so rampint? Are you aware that Alcohol is toxic to the body? It kills your organs. Have you ever seen a patient who has needed a kidney or liver transplant due to Alcoholism? Or a person with ulsers so bad throughout their intestinal tract they need a feeding tube? I have. Did I mention Alcoholics can be extremely dangerous? If the public are to blame than why are tobacco companies forced to put photos of cancerous lungs on cigarette packages? Shouldn’t they put photos of bodies being pulled out of drunk driving car accidents or photos of extracted livers on Alcoholic beverages. They don’t even have a warning saying “Drinking while pregnant may cause birth defects.” Just like the smoker choses to smoke and inhale, knowing it isn’t good for them; the alcoholic drinks to get that buzz knowing full well the consequenses the next day, when the body rejects the poison from the body.

  5. I think that Alcohol has been regulated by government for a long time now and every aspect of its marketing is controlled by leglislation that has been carefully devised with the publics health in mind. With government stipulating the size of containers, the alcohilic strength and the selling techniques that are used to promote alcoholic beverages, I find it hard to land the alcohol manufacturers with all of the blame for the public abuse of this substance. Surely, if the public consume 3 times the stipulated amount of alcohol that the government makes it plain is the limit allowed to maintain healthy living, then the public are to blame for their self destructive actions.

  6. While it is great that Millercoors was responsive to the feedback they received regarding alcoholic energy drinks, we cannot rely on the alcohol manufacturers to take responsibility for what the consumers do. Monica raises a good point, the focus should be on educating the public about the potential risks of alcohol consumption. People will continue to drink (as we learned during Prohibition), but they should be able to do so in an informed, responsible manner.

  7. I don’t agree that alcohol manufacturers should be held responsible for alcoholism, because buying alcohol depends on the person, on his qualities…

  8. I think that alcohol advertising on TV, billboards, etc. should be banned. Tobacco is comparably addictive and the ban on tobacco advertising in the US has greatly contributed to the decline in tobacco addiction. Someone should study the effect of alcohol ads in triggering alcohol cravings.

  9. I don’t think they should be taken as responsible but advertising and selling alcohol to young people should be restricted.

  10. yeah i agree with monica, although this companies who produces this alcohol and booz are not only responsible for abuses but the users aswell they should be well educated with adverse effect of this if abused.

  11. This is very interesting. Although I did know mixing caffeine with alcohol is not good for you, I didn’t know that it was extremely bad. I don’t think that these companies should necessarily be held responsible for alcoholism. We all make our own choices when buying products, whether they are harmful or not. Can we blame Cigarette companies for addiction? They have a part in trying to sell something to us, but I think it is the responsibility of parents, teachers, and kids themselves to realize the harmful effects of this substance. Alcohol is not illegal and I know plenty of adults that drink energy drinks. I think the focus should be on educating the public about the harmful effects of alcohol and caffeine, and not suing companies because they sell a popular product. Energy Alcohol Drinks wouldn’t be made if people didn’t buy them, and high school teens shouldn’t have access to alcohol anyway. I’m interested to see what happens next. Thanks for sharing!

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