GUEST VOICES: Why It’s No Longer Cool to Give Gifts of Booze

by Michael Scippa, Public Affairs Director, Alcohol Justice

Give holiday cirrhosis!With holiday gift-giving time upon us, we are being assaulted again by massive alcohol industry ad spends targeting shoppers with reasons why a bottle or can of overpriced Sonoma Valley sparkling wine, or a seasonally-flavored, high alcohol content, spirit-based concoction, or a four-pack of limited run “craft-brewed” Xmas ales would be appreciated by every adult on your gift list. The sale circulars are in the mail, and the announcements of big discounts at the big-box stores have been appearing in social media, your Sunday papers (remember them?), and snail-mail and email boxes. Then there are the cliché TV spots with bright and shiny young people, toasting each other with well-paid smiles around Xmas trees and fireplaces (shot sometime last summer) popping up all over cable and streaming channels (i.e. if you’re going to binge-watch something this holiday season, why not binge-drink something too?).

holidayguiftguide 300Well, to counter the glitzy, profit-driven, bum’s rush to buy and give alcohol this holiday season, I offer this short (by no means definitive) list of reasons why, even though it’s still socially acceptable (for now), it’s no longer cool to give gifts of booze. I respectfully urge you to read and learn and not fall victim to Big Alcohol’s persuasive seasonal pitch to purchase poison as presents for your family and friends.

  1. Alcohol is a Group 1 Carcinogen: there is no “safe level of exposure.” In 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued its global status report on alcohol and health. This eye-opening document presented a comprehensive view of alcohol consumption world-wide and a related physical and mental disease burden of pandemic proportions: 3 million deaths every year, 5.1 % of the global burden of disease and injury, 13.5 % of the total deaths of people 20-39 years of age. To reduce the burden, reduce the availability, stop giving gifts of booze.
  2. Alcohol is a Teratogen: a substance that can cause harm to an unborn fetus. Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is the most preventable birth defect. In utero exposure to alcohol can cause developmental delays and affect lifelong learning. In the US alone, FASD affects one in twenty children born annually, requiring $2 million over their lifetime in special treatment and disability costs. You may not even know that the person you are giving a bottle of wine to is pregnant, or trying to get pregnant. Why risk it? To reduce the danger, reduce the availability, stop giving gifts of booze.
  3. Alcohol is Physically and Mentally Addictive: affecting the brain and the central nervous system as a depressant. In the US, over 15 million adults have a serious Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD). They are, by varying degrees, chemically dependent on alcohol-triggered body sensations and moods. Many battle their addiction anonymously. To reduce the risk of enabling an alcoholic, or interfering with one’s sobriety, stop giving gifts of booze.
  4. Alcohol is Insulting to Many Religions & Cultures: over half the people in the world do not drink alcohol at all. Many do not consume because it against their religious beliefs. Devout followers of Islam, Remember when people gave you lung cancer for xmas?Sikhism, Jainism, the Baha’i Faith, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the Church of Christ, Scientist, the United Pentecostal Church International, Theravada, most Mahayana schools of Buddhism, some Protestant sects of Fundamentalist Christianity and some sects of Hinduism are all encouraged to abstain from alcohol. Why risk insulting your friends or associates? Stop giving gifts of booze.

Back in the 1950’s, I remember seeing cigarette ads with celebrities at Xmas time. I also sadly remember actually buying and wrapping a carton of Lucky Strikes to give to my father. He died of lung cancer ten years ago. Today I’m certain that in years to come, we will recognize being victimized by Big Alcohol as we were by Big Tobacco. For a happier and healthier holiday season and New Year, take a step away from the profit-driven, addiction-exploitative alcohol industry now. It’s no longer cool to give gifts of booze.