There has been social media and media coverage of the partnership between the National Pediatric Cancer Foundation and a local brewery to raise funds to fight childhood cancer. The cause is noble and we should all support it, but this partnership risks spreading cancer to cure cancer.
According to survey data, more than 60% of Nebraska residents are unaware that alcohol causes at least seven types of cancer. Alcoholic beverages are classified as class 1 carcinogens, which means they are known to cause cancer in humans, and the more one drinks, the greater the risk of developing cancer. Other class 1 carcinogens include asbestos, formaldehyde and tobacco. It would be almost unthinkable to imagine a lung cancer foundation teaming up with a tobacco company to raise money for lung cancer, yet that’s what happens when it comes to alcohol. .
Unfortunately, the National Pediatric Cancer Foundation isn’t alone — many organizations use alcohol as a major fundraising tool, including those dedicated to the treatment and cure of cancer. There is a Kansas-based Crawl for Cancer organization that organizes bar crawls in major cities across the United States, including Omaha, to raise money for cancer research. Many organizations use alcohol to raise funds specifically for breast cancer, which is ironic given that alcohol is one of the major risk factors for breast cancer. Nebraska churches, nonprofits, youth sports foundations, and more. all sell alcohol to make money for their causes, even though alcohol abuse has a negative impact on their congregations, missions, and youth.
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The Nebraska State Fair has expanded its alcohol consumption this year by allowing visitors to walk the entire fairgrounds while drinking alcohol. The decision was rushed by the city council, and the nature of the changes even took the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission by surprise when four community service organizations appeared at its monthly meeting to oppose the proposal.
This month, the Omaha Zoo added booze to its Halloween parties which are primarily geared towards elementary-aged children and their families. The University of Nebraska recently decided to approve a two-year pilot project to add alcohol sales to Nebraska basketball games and the city of Lincoln waived its own rules to approve the proposal without too much fuss. debate over fears that it will be extremely easy for over-age fans. to pass alcohol to underage and intoxicated fans at rest areas. Alcohol is quick and easy short-term money, but there are serious consequences to having alcohol so prevalent in our communities, and drinkers aren’t the only ones paying the price.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, more than 700 Nebraskas die each year from alcohol-related causes, including more than 70 from alcohol-related cancers. Two of the cancers for which alcohol consumption is a risk factor (colorectal cancer and female breast cancer) have been the deadliest killers for Nebraskans in nearly a decade. Additionally, Nebraska taxpayers must pay nearly $500 million of the $1.2 billion in economic costs our state pays each year due to excessive consumption.
Efforts to raise awareness of the alcohol-cancer link are currently underway. A coalition of consumer groups announced earlier this month that it had sued the Treasury Department over its failure to follow up on a 19-year-old petition urging it to require alcohol labeling showing alcohol content, calories, ingredients and allergen information. Additionally, a coalition of consumer and public health groups, including but not limited to the American Institute for Cancer Research and the American Society of Clinical Oncology, submitted a petition in 2020 to the Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade to require containers of alcoholic beverages to carry a cancer warning.
Such actions are important first steps towards increasing public awareness, enabling them to make more informed decisions about what they consume. However, achieving greater awareness will not be the silver bullet to our state’s problems. We already have a list of evidence-based policies that have proven effective in other states and that have been communicated to our decision makers, including raising liquor taxes, adding liability to liquor stores, adult drams to our existing law for young minors, regulating outlet density and maintaining limits. on the days and hours of sale.
It will take people whose lives have been forever changed by alcohol to motivate decision makers at all levels of government to take this issue more seriously. Our elected officials continue to bend over backwards to pass laws that benefit the liquor industry in the name of economic development while all Nebraskanians continue to pay the economic and social costs to subsidize industry gains.
Chris Wagner is the executive director of Project Extra Mile.