Whatas Your Thinking About Drinking?

Brown-Forman and the Industry Want to Know

What’s the latest thinking on the legal drinking age? What’s effective in preventing drunk driving? These are just some of the questions discussed on ourthinkingaboutdrinking.com.

Our Thinking About DrinkingIn a bold move, Brown-Forman launched a website in July 2009 showcasing its positions on several significant alcohol-related issues — youth and alcohol, drunk driving, alcohol and health, overconsumption, marketing and access. The distiller then went beyond simply stating its own position, and invited comments, insight and input from experts in the field and its industry partners, including bar and nightclub operators and consumers.

“We have rights as an industry and as individual companies. But with these rights come responsibility,” explains Rob Frederick, vice president, director of corporate responsibility at Brown-Forman. “The strategy and program we call ‘Our Thinking About Drinking’ set out Brown-Forman’s priorities and direction for promoting responsible consumption and working to reduce alcohol abuse and the resulting harmful effects.”

This month, Nightclub & Bar partners with Brown-Forman to bring its program to life at the Responsibility Booth on the exhibit floor of the
Nightclub & Bar Show in Las Vegas (Booth 949). “The booth provides a venue for us to talk to our customers, such as bar, pub, restaurant and store owners, who are on the front lines dealing with responsible drinking issues,” explains Fredericks. “It’s not just about us — we want your thinking about drinking and that of other show attendees.“

The hope is that the Responsibility Booth will conjure up conversations similar to what occur on the site. Ourthinkingaboutdrinking.com presents Brown-Forman’s approach to an issue while also showcasing those of experts. Not all experts are in agreement.

For example, John McCardell, founder and president of Choose Responsibility, takes the stance that the 21-year-old legal drinking age is out of step with social norms today and actually fosters dangerous behaviors. Offering a counterpoint is James C. Fell, senior program director, Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation (PIRE). He contends that the current legal drinking age is effective and must be retained.

Other experts include R. Curtis Ellison, MD, professor of medicine and public health and director, Institute on Lifestyle & Health, Boston University School of Medicine discussing alcohol and health, and Marcus Grant, president, International Center for Alcohol Policies (ICAP), commenting on the importance of discussion and debate in formulating effective initiatives to prevent abuse.

Those certainly aren’t the only voices; visitors are invited to post a comment on a topic, and some of the exchanges are lively and informative. The goal of generating such virtual discussion, one that involves all the players from distiller to retailer, according to Brown-Forman, is to move toward feasible solutions. As someone who has covered alcohol issues for two decades, I applaud this collaborative approach. So many times, alcohol policies are developed in a vaccuum, only taking into account the perspective of one group. Having input and involvement from different players is crucial to generating useful and effective policies.

Online, “Our Thinking About Drinking” is evolving, with new organization of the forum and easier ways to submit comment and register for updates on the way. An editorial calendar will ensure new opinions, and thought pieces and debates are always developing. These enhancements will roll out gradually over the next few months. To become more informed and become involved in the debate on various issues, visit Booth 949 at the Nightclub & Bar Show in Las Vegas March 7-9, and go to ourthinkingaboutdrinking.com. To be part of the solution, you have to be part of the discussion. NCB

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