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Letter: Alcohol industry profits should not trump health

Alcohol industry profits should not trump health

As reported in The News, an alcohol industry committee appointed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo has recently released some of its findings on New York’s laws governing the sale and distribution of alcohol. In his press release, the governor states: “Working collaboratively with all stakeholders, this administration has taken important steps to cut red tape, roll back burdensome recommendations and help this industry continue to grow, thrive and create jobs in New York.”

In general, reviewing policies and procedures based on updated and best information is good management. However, this process has not included any assessment of the proposed or existing regulations on the health and well-being of individuals in our community.

Not included in the discussion was the fact that alcohol remains a major contributor to disability and mortality, especially of young and middle-aged people. It is now well-established that, in general, allowing and encouraging increased availability of alcohol increases the acute risks of heavy drinking and intoxication. As one example, while adding hours of service to include Sunday mornings may permit sales of some champagne with food at Sunday brunch, this may also expand intoxication. Proper policy, however, can make a major difference, as established by the change in the legal drinking age to 21.

The state’s responsibilities include properly supporting business prosperity but also facilitating the health of its citizens. Moving forward, the process of reviewing these proposals must include best estimates of the impact on the health of our citizens. Life and well-being should trump the profits of the alcohol industry.

Robert B. Whitney, M.D.

Policy Committee Chairman

Erie County Council for the Prevention of Alcohol and Substance Abuse