Competitive Enterprise Institute | 1899 L ST NW Floor 12, Washington, DC 20036 | Phone: 202-331-1010 | Fax: 202-331-0640
Washington, D.C. December 8, 1998– As the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms supposedly moves closer to issuing a long-awaited decision on the question of health claims regarding moderate alcohol consumption, a noted former federal health policy expert has weighed in with his own assessment of the scientific evidence. In comments  filed with the agency yesterday, Dr. Michael Gough concludes that there is overwhelming evidence that moderate consumption confers health benefits on most adults. In his view, ATF’s current doubts about this evidence are unsupportable, and even the Federal Dietary Guideline for alcohol understates its benefits.
Dr. Gough filed his comments  on behalf of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which is challenging the agency’s policy in federal district court on First Amendment grounds. Despite the evidence that moderate consumption reduces cardiovascular risk, ATF has blocked all advertising and label claims that describe or even allude to this fact. ATF has killed nearly a dozen advertising campaigns, some of which merely used the term "healthy" or depicted the image of a heart, and has stalled wine labels which do no more than direct consumers to the Dietary Guidelines. The Guidelines, issued in late 1995, state that "moderate consumption is associated with a lower risk for coronary heart disease in some individuals." In Dr. Gough’s view, the evidence shows benefits for most adults, with the exception of certain well-defined high risk groups.
From 1990 to 1995, Dr. Gough directed the congressional Office of Technology Assessment’s Biological and Behavioral Sciences program. He has written extensively on public health issues, and has participated in federal studies of atomic radiation and Agent Orange.
Senators Strom Thurmond and Robert Byrd have threatened to strip ATF of its label authority if it allows moderate consumption health claims. In CEI’s view, these threats are no excuse for the agency’s foot-dragging. CEI General Counsel Sam Kazman stated: "Given the body of research on moderate alcohol consumption, ATF’s policy has as little basis in science as it does in law. Truthful information such as this is constitutionally protected, and the notion that the public should be kept in the dark is something that the Founding Fathers discarded several centuries ago."
CEI, a non-profit, non-partisan public policy group founded in 1984, is dedicated to the principles of free enterprise and limited government. For more information, contact Emily McGee, director of public relations, at 202-331-1010.