In 2012, a group of alcohol policy experts gathered together in Baltimore, Maryland to discuss the need for a national voice on alcohol policy. Dr. David Jernigan brought together leaders of state alcohol policy organizations from Texas, Michigan, Nebraska, Massachusetts, as well as national alcohol policy researchers and practitioners. Together, they identified the gaps in the alcohol field and began to devise a plan.
Over the next two years, leaders from the alcohol policy field, including researchers and advocates, began meeting regularly to shape a national organization that could support municipalities and states in developing and implementing alcohol policies. And, in 2014, they incorporated the U.S. Alcohol Policy Alliance (USAPA or The Alliance) as a 501(c)3 organization.
In 2016, USAPA ran its first Alcohol Policy Conference (AP17). The Conference, in existence since 1981, has been a forum for researchers, community practitioners, and public officials to meet and exchange findings, explore evidence-based solutions, and consider adoption of policies aimed at minimizing risks associated with alcohol use. Over the years, the Alcohol Policy Conference series has aided the development of a number of national and international initiatives, including:
Prevention policies (e.g., increase in the minimum legal drinking age to 21;
Health warnings on alcoholic beverage containers;
Promotion of recommendations from a Surgeon General’s workshop on impaired driving;
Articulation of Healthy People goals;
Decrease in blood alcohol limit for determination of driving while impaired;
Excise tax increase and local actions (e.g., enforcement of laws pertaining to underage alcohol sales and possession);
Responsible sales and services practices;
Controls on alcohol availability at sports stadiums and during public events; and Encouragement of faith-based initiatives).
In the three Alcohol Policy Conference events it has coordinated (2016, 2018, and 2022), USAPA has focused on the theme “Evidence to Action”to inform agendas and initiatives throughout the nation. Event highlights have included:
A screening of “Sober Indian Dangerous Indian” accompanied by a panel with the filmmakers and researchers;
A 1.5 day pre-conference session on the inclusion of equity in the alcohol policy space, which was attended by more than 100 people;
More than a dozen plenary presentations that have covered hot button issues from alcohol cancer to digital alcohol marketing to raising the price of alcohol and more.
And, the following actions have been taken:
An in-depth overview of alcohol industry involvement in research, contributing to the cancellation of a multi-million dollar industry-funded trial on the cardiovascular impacts of alcohol use.
A hands-on training on how to assess alcohol outlet density, using the latest methodologies from CDC.
More than 500 alcohol policy researchers and advocates coming together to learn, network, and collaborate.
In 2018, USAPA convened Alcohol Control as Cancer Control, a symposium in partnership with the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) and IOGT International. This was a one-day, invitation-only symposium gathering research, policy, and community practice held at Johns Hopkins University. The purpose of the meeting was to generate policy ideas for collaboration between the cancer advocacy and alcohol policy communities, to develop new products to broaden information about this link, and inform and engage potential funders of this collaborative work.
Later that year, The Alliance co-authored an Amicus Brief to the U.S. Supreme Court, joining with public health researchers and advocates in support of Tennessee’s durational residency requirement, which required an individual to demonstrate that they’ve lived in Tennessee for the two previous years before obtaining a license to sell alcohol. To renew a license, which is required by law after one year of operation, an individual was required to show continuous residency in the state for a period of ten consecutive years. Unfortunately the Supreme Court prioritized profits over people and removed Tennessee’s durational residency requirements, allowing more alcohol retailers to setup shop in the state making alcohol increasingly accessible. However, USAPA ensured they were on the record and served as a lone public health voice at the national level.
Then, in 2019, USAPA co-authored an American Public Health Association policy statement — “Addressing Alcohol-Related Harms: A Population Level Response” provides a comprehensive review of the evidence documenting the health and economic burdens of alcohol and guidance for public health professionals and communities on the most effective population-level interventions to prevent excessive alcohol consumption and related harms. This led to the 2020 publication of a related peer-reviewed article in the American Journal of Public Health.As the world adjusted to the COVID-19 pandemic in spring 2020, The Alliance began a series of Interactive Dialogues that began by addressing the most pressing issues of the time as alcohol regulations were rolled back at an unprecedented rate. The first dialogue was intended to focus on a new study that showed that alcohol advertising was directly linked to underage drinking; however, with the sudden increase in alcohol availability, the Alliance quickly pivoted to provide three dialogues specifically on COVID-19 changes at the local, state, and national level. For each session, the Alliance brought together researchers and practitioners to discuss the science and data behind the specific policy and case studies of how those policies are implemented in communities. Participants included:
Dr. Traci Toomey, Professor, Division of Epidemiology & Community Health, University of Minnesota
Dr. Adam Milam, Senior Associate Consultant, Mayo Clinic
Dr. Pamela Trangestein, Scientist, Alcohol Research Group
Chuck Ridley, Miami Gardens Substance Abuse Coalition
Five months later, the organization submitted a Citizen Petition to the U.S. Treasury Department’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau calling for revisions to the more than 30-year-old Government Warning (required by The Alcoholic Beverage Labeling Act of 1988). Specifically, the Petition requested the label be amended to state that the consumption of alcoholic beverages has been known to cause specific types of cancer, including breast and colon cancer. This action was the subject of several news reports, including “Should Your Cocktail Carry a Cancer Warning?” published in The New York Times.
As the worst days of COVID move further into the distance and public health implications of pandemic drinking become clearer every day, USAPA is redoubling its efforts to move evidence into action. As the national voice on alcohol policy, The Alliance is leading the fight to change America’s relationship with alcohol by translating alcohol policy research into public health practice. USAPA’s mission is to implement public health practices that at least reduce and prevent alcohol-related harm. Its vision is a nation free from alcohol-related disease, death, and injury. The Alliance seeks to change the narrative about alcohol, define an actionable agenda for policy making on all levels, and build a movement driven by the truth that alcohol harms.