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Binge Drinkers Prefer Beer Because It's Easy to Buy (Update1)

By Elizabeth Lopatto

Aug. 7 (Bloomberg) -- Three-quarters of binge drinkers chose beer over other types of alcohol, in part because it is more readily available, according to a study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In the nation, about 30 percent of adults who drink alcohol reported binge drinking in the month before the survey, researchers said after a study of 14 states. A total of 81.8 percent of such drinkers in North Dakota consumed more beer to excess than other alcoholic drinks. Those in Maine had 6.6 beers, the largest number of servings. Californians consumed the most wine, 14.6 percent of total drinks.

Binge drinking, defined as having five or more drinks on one occasion, accounts for more than half of deaths related to alcohol. Beer was the most common drink consumed by those most likely to get drunk and hurt themselves or someone else, the authors wrote in the study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

``Drinking alcohol in and of itself isn't a bad thing, but what we're trying to focus on is the patterns with which people drink,' said lead author Timothy S. Naimi, a physician with the CDC who practices in Zuni, New Mexico. ``Most people who drink at the level of binging are impaired or intoxicated.'

People who are drunk are more likely to get into car crashes and fights, to have an unintended pregnancy, contract a sexually transmitted disease, and commit suicide or homicide, Naimi said.

Marketing

People are probably more likely to choose beer for binges as it's more readily available, is marketed more heavily than other alcoholic drinks, and because taxes on beer are lower than those on liquor at the federal level and in most states, the authors wrote in the study.

``I don't want to put too much lipstick on a pig -- binge drinking happens across all beverage types,' Naimi said. ``The propensity to drink heavily is deeply ingrained.'

The likelihood of dangerous drinking would be lessened by raising the taxes on alcohol, imposing marketing restrictions to limit the exposure of children, prevention of underage drinking, shortening happy hours and reducing the hours of sale.

``Alcohol sold very late at night and early in the morning is probably for less than noble purposes,' Naimi said.

About 44 percent of binge drinkers drank beer only on their last binge; a quarter drank beer and alcohol; 8 percent drank beer, liquor and wine; and 6 percent drank beer and wine.

Rebecca Spicer, a spokeswoman for the National Beer Wholesalers Association, a trade group in Alexandria, Virginia, didn't immediately return a telephone call for comment.

To contact the reporter on this story: Elizabeth Lopatto in New York at elopatto@bloomberg.net

Last Updated: August 7, 2007

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