Substance Use Disorders
- Significant increases in alcohol and tobacco taxes are among the most effective policies governments have for improving public health. Higher alcohol taxes reduce the prevalence, frequency, and intensity of drinking,1 as well as the traffic crashes, liver cirrhosis, violence, and other health and social consequences of harmful drinking.2 Likewise, increases in tobacco taxes promote cessation among adult users, prevent young people from taking up tobacco use, and reduce the death, disease, and economic consequences caused by tobacco.
- This issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine includes two articles that have a common theme, the role of law in policy initiatives to improve the public's health. In the first, by Mosher and Treffers,1 the subject is state pre-emption of local efforts to regulate the sites where alcohol beverages may be sold. The second, by Taber and colleagues,2 looks at the impact of state laws addressing the composition of school lunches on the intake of fruits and vegetables by youth.
- In the current issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, the Community Preventive Services Task Force (Task Force) provides a set of review and recommendation papers on the privatization of alcohol sales, which is very timely, to say the least.1,2 In the November 2011 election, voters in Washington State endorsed Initiative Measure 1183, which has the effect of taking that state out of the business of selling spirits to the public. By June 2012, the Liquor Control Board will no longer operate state stores (or state “contract” stores) or set retail prices.
- In an invaluable update using a standard cost-of-illness approach, Bouchery et al.1 estimated the financial impact of excessive alcohol consumption in the U.S. for 2006, the most recent year for which data were available. The results ($223.5 billion or $746 per capita that year) are staggering and exceed the costs of the other leading preventable causes of death in the U.S., including cigarette smoking and physical inactivity. This is partly because excessive alcohol consumption involves many second-hand or external costs (i.e., costs that are incurred by those other than the consumers, sellers, or producers of alcohol) and because many alcohol-related outcomes begin at relatively young ages, which results in large future productivity losses and prolonged or recurrent expenditures related to health care and the criminal justice system.
- Candy Lightner, responding to the senseless death of her daughter caused by a repeat drunk driving offender, organized Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) in 1980 to bring attention to the tragedies associated with alcohol-related motor-vehicle crashes. Her one-person crusade touched a nerve across the country and prompted a national grassroots movement that resulted in a sea change in social norms, public perceptions, and public policy regarding the problem.1,2
- In the review paper1 in this issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, the Task Force on Community Preventive Services (the Task Force) looks at two different strategies by which servers of alcoholic beverages might be motivated to implement responsible beverage service (RBS) practices on their premises. Whether via the deterrent effect of exposure to large liability costs or more direct penalties of the law, these mechanisms are meant to achieve a reduction in intoxication and related harm through the intervention of a server who is expected to monitor the drinker's consumption and refuse service when and if the patron reaches a point of obvious intoxication.
- In this issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, the Task Force on Community Preventive Services presents a systematic review of the literature to assess the effectiveness of ignition interlocks for reducing alcohol-impaired driving and alcohol-related crashes.1,2 The following commentary highlights the progress made with these devices in Sweden.