The following open letter to President Barack Obama has been distributed to news outlets throughout the nation by Dr. Dan Ireland, Executive Director of the American Council on Alcohol Problems (ACAP) and the Director Emeritus of ALCAP. It addresses the inappropriateness of the recent “Beer Summit” held by the President in the White House Gardens.
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President,
With your recent “Beer Summit” you have provided a tremendous complimentary boost to the alcohol industry at the public’s expense. As the American Medical Association as well as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention point out, alcohol is a drug. As reflected by the millions of alcoholic and problem drinkers in the United States, alcohol is an addictive drug as well as a killer drug. The Surgeon General says the nation averages 100,000 deaths a year due to alcohol abuse.
As I’m sure you are aware, underage consumption of alcohol is a grave concern in this nation and beer is by far the drink of choice among young Americans. The American Council on Alcohol Problems with its 30 state affiliates shares the concern of the U.S. Surgeon General and join his national efforts to reduce this major problem. The Columbia University Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse found that underage drinkers account for 20 percent of all alcohol sales. The same study concluded that excessive drinkers and teens account for nearly half of the billions of dollars spent on alcohol in one year. NIDA and NIAAA studies reveal that one in twenty Americans could be diagnosed for alcohol dependence or alcohol abuse.
The Marin Institute reports that alcohol is a leading cause of death among youth. The report also points out that every day, on average, 11,318 American youth (12 to 20 years of age) try alcohol for the first time. Alcohol is by far the most used and abused drug among America’s teenagers. According to a report in Surveillance Summaries, June 9, 2006, “Alcohol is a significant factor in the four leading causes of death among persons ages 10 to 24: (1) motor-vehicle crashes, (2) unintentional injuries, (3) homicide, and (4) suicide. According to a report of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “In spite of laws about underage drinking, 1.1 billion cans of beer are consumed by junior and senior high school students each year.” It is also reported that alcohol in all its forms causes one-third of all preventable deaths in the United States.
Mr. President, in addition to all the research revealing the multiplied negatives of alcoholic beverages it is appalling that you, as the President of the United States, would taint the high esteem of your office with a “Beer Summit” on public property by hosting a week of free advertising for the beer industry in the press, radio and television.
Dr. Joe Godfrey, Executive Director of the Alabama Citizens Action Program has well concluded, “When considering the lives that have been destroyed, the homes that have been broken, the job hours that have been lost and the health costs that have spiraled upwards as a result of alcohol use in America, it is regrettable that the President of the United States has given such unnecessary attention to this drug by hosting his recent ‘Beer Summit.’”
Mr. President, a “Beer Summit” does not solve problems. The alcohol product intensifies problems. Local officials and our court systems are quite capable in solving problems without a “Beer Summit.” Public officials do not need to dignify killer drugs with public property summits. This display of approval, indeed, sends the wrong message to the general public, especially the underage group.
Dr. D.L. Dan Ireland, Executive Director
American Council on Alcohol Problems