*To listen to ALCAP President Greg Davis discuss this issue, click here*
The alcohol industry is pushing a bill in the Alabama Legislature that would greatly expand the sale of liquor in Alabama, lead to more underage drinking, and increase drunk driving and drunk-driving deaths.
Senate Bill 194, sponsored by Sens. Steve Livingston, R-Scottsboro, and Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, would enable wider sales of trendy ready-to-drink, liquor-based alcoholic beverages, which are often referred to as “mixed-spirits beverages” or, less formally, “cocktails in a can.” The alcohol industry is lobbying heavily to expand the sale of these beverages, which represent the fastest-growing segment of alcohol sales, are extremely popular among younger drinkers, and lucrative to producers, distributors and retailers. So lucrative is this product that soft drink makers, including Pepsi and Coca-Cola, have also joined the crowd by producing liquor-based alcoholic beverages of their own.
Here are some important facts:
- Currently, in Alabama, liquor and liquor-based products can be sold for off-premise use only at private package stores and public liquor stores operated by the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board. There are about 900 such stores, with more than 700 of them being private package stores.
- SB 194 would allow liquor-based, ready-to-drink beverages to be sold at numerous other outlets – essentially the convenient stores, grocers and other retailers that sell beer and wine. This could result in 10,000 additional outsets selling these liquor products.
- Even worse, the bill would allow these products to have an alcohol-by-volume content of up to 12.5 percent. That’s the equivalent of about three beers. Someone who drinks two cans of this product could be consuming the amount of alcohol that’s in a six pack of beer. That will lead to more drunk driving and more drunk-driving crashes.
- Because of their often sweet, fruity taste, cocktails-in-a-can are especially enticing to young people. (One popular product, for example, is a Mountain Dew alcohol-infused beverage.) This, of course, will lead to more underage drinking.
- SB 194 has been sent to the Senate’s Tourism Committee. The only thing that has slowed it down is that the various players in the alcohol industry haven’t agreed yet on the terms of how the drinks will be distributed, such as franchise licenses. A meeting in March about the then proposed legislation attracted about dozens of alcohol industry lobbyists. At this meeting ALCAP President Greg Davis voiced our opposition to this expansion saying “our churches oppose any effort to tempt more people get drunk quicker” Make no mistsake that this issue is an absolute priority for big alcohol.
- The ABC Board also opposes the bill for the above and other reasons. In addition, the bill would weaken the state’s control of liquor, damage the traditional three-tier system that keeps producers, wholesalers and retailers of alcoholic beverages separate, and open the door to more future expansion of alcohol in Alabama.
Let’s be crystal clear: The goal of the alcohol industry is to sell more alcoholic beverages and boost their profits. This will come at the expense of public health and public safety, with an outlet selling liquor almost literally on every street corner.
The only way to stop this is for the public to speak out against the bill before it is too late. Call your state senator and your House representative (find your legislators here) and tell them to say no to this massive alcohol expansion, and that you will be watching how they vote on this bill.