Will reducing alcohol regulation set the stage for another public health crisis?

This is happening not just in Vermont, but across the United States, and the alcohol industry is generally pushing to make changes in alcohol regulations that have occurred as part of Coronavirus economic relief, permanent.

In this statement, the National Association of Wine Retailers demand that governments allow interstate wine shipping, claiming this is a “matter of health and safety.”

Meanwhile, American Beverage Licensees, admonishing the statement made by the Wine Retailers Association referenced above, claiming that “now is the time” to treat “package liquor stores as essential businesses.”

Curbside pick-up and delivery of beverage alcohol, including mixed drinks, has been allowed in Vermont since March 19. The rate of compliance with minimum age of of purchase, initially very low, has increased since the policy change was made, however, as the public gets the message that using alcohol is important for the economy, without an accompanying, strong health message urging care and attention be paid to the habits we are forming during this time, we may be creating future problems in our efforts to address a current problem.

Alcohol use causes serious health consequences, especially when used frequently and or in larger quantities, including seven types of cancer, liver disease, and depression and anxiety.

Increased use at home may come with additional and or worse outcomes.

The amount of alcohol sold and promoted within a specific geographic boundary has specific effects on over-consumption, as well as youth use. As the California-based watchdog group Alcohol Justice points out in their recent letter to the California alcohol control agency, “research demonstrated time and time again that overconcentration leads to an increase in alcohol-related harms,” as many places in California are over-concentrated with alcohol retail. These could include short-term results like increases in violent behavior, physical injuries from stumbles and falls, and lowering of judgment leading to regrettable decisions, as well as traffic fatalities.

And as with many issues, alcohol use affects racial and ethnic minorities at greater rates. Substance industries target these communities by locating in neighborhoods where there are greater populations of racial and ethnic minorities, and use marketing to claim they are on the side of underprivileged and marginalized groups. Meanwhile, they continue to profit from sales of substances that create barriers to health.