iPhone Beer Applications

The new iPhone App store is open on iTunes now. Perhaps not surprising, at least two beer related applications are already there. One is a sight-gag program called iBeer. Another is from the Carling company called iPint. In theory there is nothing too harmful in such applications, but somehow it does seem presumably only those who already have a high interest in alcohol will download them. However, there is nothing to say that underage won’t be the most likely to find these sort of programs most interesting.

UPDATE: Looks like the iBeer folks also have an iMilk version; a nod to responsibilty. And iBeer... it has a 12+ tag on it.

Keg Registration Paradox

I’m attending the Research Society on Alcoholism conference in Washington, DC right now. It’s always an interesting meeting with some of the top researchers in the field sharing their emerging findings.

I was struck by one little strange finding on a poster by James Fell and his PIRE colleagues (Fell, Fisher, Voas, Blackman, & Tippetts) titled The relationship of 16 underage drinking laws to reductions in underage drinking and driving fatal crashes in the United States. They found some impressive declines (16%) in fatal crashes resulting from a core set of laws restricting sale and possession to those under 21. But one finding puzzled the researchers: keg registration laws correlated with an increase in fatal crashes (12%) among those under 21.

What’s going on? According to Jim Fell, they also found that beer consumption went down for young people in the states with keg registrations. So beer consumption was down, but alcohol-related traffic fatalities went up. Frankly, I was not surprise. There have been a number of studies that have found keg parties result in lower intoxication levels than other forms of alcohol-service parties at colleges; we, along with our PIRE colleagues even published one of them (Clapp, Lange, Min, Shillington, Johnson & Voas, 2003). We found that “Bring Your Own Beverage”, often the opposite of a keg party, resulted in higher levels of consumption.

Perhaps it’s time to acknowledge that kegs of beer are, in fact, a protective form of alcohol service for young people. Of course one can get very drunk at a “kegger.” Of course, a big barrel of beer is worse than one small can of beer. But if young people are intent on drinking, it is better to make them fight through a crowd to get to nasty-cheap beer with low alcohol content than to push them towards taking shots of liquor. Fatal alcohol poisoning is far more likely from distilled forms of alcohol because it is very easy to consume the alcohol faster than it absorbs through the stomach into the blood stream. Beer can be consumed very quickly too, but it takes far more effort to do it over consumption is thus far less likely to occur with beer. If intoxication is lower, than risk of fatal crashes will decline too.

I am in this business to save lives. Keg registration has never been shown to save lives, and now is actually showing the opposite effect. People who promoted it were working with the best intentions and logic, but not empirical evidence. We have to start believing our own data, even when it comes out in a direction we aren’t expecting. I’m now convinced that we should stop demonizing kegs, permit them as we once did, and perhaps begin the shift back to this less potent form of alcohol. It may just save some lives.