With the attacks on the alcohol industry coming more frequently and louder from the Neo-Prohibitionist movement, many of us in the alcohol industry are left to wonder, are we in peril of becoming the new tobacco?

The tobacco industry paid billions of dollars in damages based on their product’s damaging health impacts, and it was required to put explicit language on cigarette packs spelling out the potential harms of smoking cigarettes.

The states individually sued the tobacco companies and recovered billions in legal settlements.

The main beneficiary of the tobacco lawsuits were plaintiff attorneys, mainly class action lawyers, who obtained a percentage of the funds received from the state. In the Texas tobacco settlement, the attorneys obtained $2.3 billion, in Florida the attorneys would make several billion.[1]

Let’s be honest, the more harmful a product can be labeled, the greater opportunity for jackpot justice for class action lawyers.

A great piece in Tom Wark’s Fermentation Newsletter cites a well-placed federal source that the proposed recommendation for coming Federal Dietary Guidelines will include the language “No amount of alcohol is acceptable for a healthy lifestyle.” This statement would mirror the World Health Organization’s (WHO) standard that no level of alcohol is safe for your health and that risk starts at the first drop.

Not only would this statement be damaging for alcohol sales, it also has the potential to open up the liquor industry to catastrophic class action lawsuits.

And if you believe nobody is thinking this way, think again!

At the Alcohol Policy Conference (The Alcohol Policy Conference is centered around highlighting what they deem are the negative aspects of the alcohol industry), last week there was a session called, “Alcohol and Cancer: A New Litigation Strategy Against Large Producers.” Although I have not seen this presentation, I think we all get the gist of the topic, how can we strategically bring lawsuits linking alcohol to cancer similar to what was done in the tobacco industry.

What will buttress this position is if the federal government comes up with guidelines that “no amount of alcohol is acceptable for a healthy lifestyle.” This will put producers of alcohol products on the defensive that like tobacco, they are selling a product that is harmful to one’s health. Knowing that major manufacturers have deep pockets, they will start with them and work their way down.

Obviously, it seems the trial lawyers are looking for a pay day and they are already planning an attack on big alcohol. The cherry on the top of their sundae is a federal government endorsement of alcohol being a product that is harmful to one’s health.

I have written before about the dangerous intersection of dietary guidelines and class action lawsuits. Now it seems both are coming more into focus.

Let’s not forget this is an election year in a tight election. The trial lawyers are major donors to the Democratic Party and as we have seen through recent student loan forgiveness programs, nobody is above buying votes at election time. We can only hope that the standard Tom Wark reported is seriously under consideration is not provided as an election year gift to the trial lawyers.

Either way the barbarians are definitely waiting at the gate

[1] https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/settlement/etc/faqs.html