Distillers of alcoholic beverages may include “nutrition data” labels on liquor bottles in the near future. Sometime soon all liquor bottles will likely show the number of calories and carbohydrates in each “serving.” Some commentators predict that at long last there will be a real deterrent to problem drinking.
Our society has preached against the evils of alcohol for generations. For decades, the Women’s Christian Temperance Union railed against the dangers of demon rum. This agitation was partially responsible for the enactment of Prohibition in the 1920s. Rather than controlling drinking, this federal law resulted in the development of a vast underground industry of speakeasies, the accelerated growth of organized crime, and the production of millions of gallons of moonshine and bathtub gin.
More recently, kill-joy activists have lobbied against “happy hour” two-for-one drink bargains and have succeeded in barring advertisements for booze on radio and TV. And, of course, Mothers Against Drunk Driving have pressed for increased penalties for driving under the influence and lowering the intoxication levels on breathalyzer exams.
Additionally, federal, state, and local taxes on alcoholic beverages are virtually confiscatory… and getting higher with every budget crisis, as legislators look for another vice to target for a “revenue enhancing” sin tax. It’s a close race, but someday soon liquor may be taxed at rates higher than the usual taxation whipping boy, tobacco.
The initiatives to control drinking have had only a moderate impact on the consumption of alcoholic beverages in this country. Happy hours are as happy as ever. Attitude adjustment hours continue to thrive in American households. And binge drinking continues to be a major problem on college campuses nationwide.
But, now there’s a program that may finally get drinkers’ attention and dramatically reduce the consumption of alcohol. Labeling booze bottles with nutrition data may really strike a responsive chord with all those health/weight- obsessed and diet-crazed Americans. With the national mania over carbohydrates spawned by the Adkins diet fad, nutrition data on liquor bottles may make weight-watchers think twice about their drinking habits during the cocktail hour.
For decades, the government has issued a stark health warning on all booze labels:
(1) According to the Surgeon General, women should not drink alcoholic beverages during pregnancy because of the risk of birth defects.
(2) Consumption of alcoholic beverages impairs your ability to drive a car or operate machinery and may cause health problems.
To be sure, I haven’t seen many pregnant women operating chainsaws or bulldozers, but I don’t think that has anything to do with Uncle Sam’s friendly warning. Frankly, I don’t think warnings about birth defects, health problems, or impairments have deterred drinkers from imbibing. Just look at the staggering number of arrests for driving while intoxicated. Drunk driving is as much of a problem today as it was before the government’s warning label was mandated on all booze bottles.
But some think this new nutrition labeling program will finally curb problem drinking in America. Maybe drinkers who are dieting will be deterred by knowing about all those carbs and calories in each cocktail. As they “adjust their attitude” with that evening cocktail, they also may be adjusting their carb and calorie intake.
If this new alcoholic beverage nutrition information movement catches on, just imagine how marketing gurus for spirits will jump on the bandwagon with promotions for new Low-Cal Bourbon, Diet Gin, and Reduced-Carb Vodka. Or imagine bartenders asking, “Do you want a martini, or martini-lite?” or “Will that be our fat-free daiquiri?” or even “Would you like your diet gin and tonic with a squeeze of lime… or a cube of tofu?”
Nutrition on the rocks or marketing fantasy? It remains to be seen. In the meantime, “Here’s lookin’ at you, slim!”
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