March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Colorectal Cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States. The CDC reports that about 140,000 Americans are diagnosed with the disease annually, while more than 50,000 people die from it. This Colorectal Awareness Month, Texans Standing Tall asks that you raise awareness around the increased risks of developing the disease from alcohol use.

For some, risks for colorectal cancer can be attributed to genetics. A family history of polyps in the colon, rectum, or both tremendously increases risks for colorectal cancer. However, lifestyle factors can also increase the risks.

Cancer Research UK points to alcohol consumption as a risk factor for seven different cancers: head and neck, larynx, esophageal, liver, women’s breast, and colorectal. In the United States, it is estimated that 3.5% of all cancer deaths are alcohol-related. In Texas, 58 people die annually from alcohol attributed colorectal cancer.

Though we’ve heard more about the connection between alcohol and cancer in recent years, the concept is nothing new. In fact, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) declared it to be a group 1 carcinogen in 1988. In other words, there is sufficient evidence showing that alcohol consumption can cause cancer.

Research points to several ways that alcohol use can increase cancer risk:

  • The ethanol in alcoholic drinks breaks down into a toxic chemical called acetaldehyde, which can damage DNA and proteins.
  • Alcohol can create highly reactive molecules called Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) that can also damage DNA.
  • Alcohol can impair the body’s ability to break down and absorb nutrients that may be associated with cancer risk.
  • Alcohol can increase blood levels of estrogen, which is linked to breast cancer risk.

While there is no “safe” amount to drink when it comes to cancer, research also indicates the more alcohol a person drinks, the higher the risk.  By making the following changes, Texans can greatly lower their risks of developing colorectal cancer.

  • Limit alcohol intake. Research shows that alcohol consumption is a major risk factor for colorectal cancer.
  • Quit smoking. Smoking is generally a risky life choice because of it increases the chances of developing cancer. Drinking and smoking multiplies the risks for certain cancers because alcohol and tobacco work together to damage cells of the body. Alcohol also makes it easier for the body to absorb carcinogens in tobacco.
  • Eat a healthy diet. Diets high in red meats and processed meats (like hotdogs and some lunch meats) can raise the risk for colorectal cancer. The American Cancer Society reports that diets that consists of fruits, vegetables, and whole grain fibers have been linked with a lower risk of colorectal cancer.
  • Engage in physical activity. Studies show that being more physically active helps lower colorectal cancer risks.
  • Educate lawmakers on the benefits of an alcohol excise tax increase. In February, Texans Standing Tall released The Effect of Alcohol Excise Tax Increases on Alcohol-Attributable Cancer Deaths. The document serves as addendum to our full report, The Effect of Alcohol Excise Tax Increases on Public Health and Safety in Texas, and shows that a dime a drink increase would result in 8.62% fewer colorectal cancer deaths in Texas every year. At first, that may not sound like a significant number, but it’s important to remember that those lives being saved are someone’s mother, father, sister, brother, aunt, uncle, cousin, friend, teacher, or coworker.

We must begin protecting our youth and our communities by implementing evidence-based strategies that save lives; increasing alcohol excise tax is one of the most effective ways we can do just that. To learn more check out or full excise tax report and visit TexansStandingTall.org for additional information.

Postmates Looks to Expand Alcohol Delivery Service to Texas Cities

In select cities across the country, youth will soon have the ability to throw an underage drinking party in 25 minutes or less thanks to the Postmates service beefing up its selection of products offered. In the coming months, the startup delivery service is planning to partner up with more liquor and corner stores to get alcohol to its customers in its promised time of 25 minutes.

Postmates is a delivery service app available in major cities across the country, including Austin, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and West Lake Hills. Sort of like Lyft, consumers can download the app on their phones and have groceries and other food items delivered right to their front door. The company’s call to expand comes as they approach the milestone of reaching a billion dollars in gross merchandise revenue. In Austin, Postmates will begin to compete with the alcohol delivery services like BrewDrop (now a part of Delivery.com) and Drizly, who get around selling alcohol through a regulated brick and mortar establishment by acting as a connection between the store and the customer. The apps list the inventory available and the customer selects what they want. The alcohol is then delivered by the liquor store employees.

These companies must hold a permit through the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC), like what FedEx and UPS hold, where the company proves to TABC that its drivers who deliver alcohol have been through a certifies training course. The course trains sellers of alcohol beverages how to identify intoxicated individuals and refusing to sell minors to alcohol.

The expanded service is rolling out in San Francisco and Los Angeles first, but the company plans to expand it to other cities in the coming months. There’s just one little problem with Postmates’ push for more revenue: it will be yet another way for underage youth to get their hands on alcohol.  The Texas Department of State Health Service’s 2014 Texas School Survey reports 24% of middle and high school students get their alcohol from their home, 28% report getting alcohol from their friends and 32% report getting it from parties. It is completely nonsensical for companies to offer any services that will make it easier for youth to get alcohol. This service is likely to deliver alcohol to young adults hosting parties where underage drinkers are present.

Current Texas law applies to all alcohol delivery services. For example, liquor stores cannot deliver outside of business hours, and ID has to be shown to delivery drivers. Still, young people are crafty and can find a way around these flimsy checks. Drivers can be held criminally accountable if they are found to have to delivered alcohol to minors. Adults at parties are also subject to Texas’ criminal statutes around providing alcohol to minors, but criminal cases have a higher burden of proof. The high burden of proof associated with criminal cases is why civil social host ordinances are so effective for preventing underage alcohol. A civil social host ordinance works because it has a lower burden of proof and it is swift, certain and severe. Underage party hosts will be charged with an appropriate fine for the community and will be cited on the spot. Here at Texans Standing Tall, we are constantly working to raise awareness among parents, guardians, and our partners about the risks of underage alcohol use; with technology constantly easing access to alcohol, it is hard for us, let alone laws, to keep up. This is where a social host ordinance is most effective.

A social host ordinance holds individuals accountable for providing the location where underage drinking takes place. San Antonio is the only city in Texas where apps similar to Postmates are available and has a social host ordinance in place.

Alcohol leads to a variety of negative consequences like violence, sexual assault, unplanned sexual activity, property damage, and alcohol poisoning. However, those things often get overlooked when $10 million — the magic number Postmates is hoping to generate in 2017 as it expands its alcohol delivery services — is within reach. Is anybody else tired of hearing that money is the driving force behind new products, services, and technologies that make alcohol more accessible to youth? We certainly are tired of seeing our youth sold out for a bottom line and profits.

To learn more about how a social host ordinance would help keep our youth safe and healthy, read about San Antonio’s social host ordinance on our blog and visit TexansStandingTall.org for more information.

Examining Tobacco Inequities in Black Communities

February is a chance for us to recognize the contributions and accomplishments of so many Black Americans. At the same time, it is also important to remember that there are still obstacles to overcome. We admit, the prevention field has work to do when it comes to creating solutions that address the inequities experienced by neighborhoods with a high or concentrated Black population. These inequities are especially noticeable with the discriminatory practices of the tobacco industry that target black neighborhoods and low-income schools. It is no coincidence that black people in this country die at much higher rates than their white counterparts from smoking-related illnesses.

The tobacco industry knows exactly what it’s doing. While there have been smoking declines in both youth and adult tobacco use, the health gap endures among at-risk communities. Established research indicates that the negative health affects of smoking disproportionately affects racial minorities and tobacco marketing often targets areas with a low socioeconomic status.

The shameless targeted marketing to these communities has put an unnecessary and disproportionate amount of tobacco-related health burdens on black communities. Big tobacco has been known to donate to Historically Black Colleges and Universities, as well as sponsor cultural events, and make contributions to elected officials, community organizations, and even scholarship programs. They’ve long employed blacks to work in tobacco factories as a means of supporting their families. These seeming acts of friendliness to the black community work in contrast to the amount of damage that black families suffer at the hands of the tobacco industry. Tobacco contributes to the three leading causes of death among black Americans: heart disease, cancer and stroke.

While blacks smoke less and begin smoking at a later age than whites, they ultimately have the highest incidence of death rates and shortest survival rate of any race or ethnic group for most cancers. Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids reports that “more than 72,000 Black Americans are diagnosed with a tobacco-related cancer and more than 39,00 die from tobacco related cancer.” In fact, lung cancer kills more Black Americans than any other type of cancer.

Black youth are also disproportionately affected by exposure to secondhand smoke. Studies show that among youth ages three to 11, 68% of black children are exposed to secondhand smoke, compared to 37% of white children in the same age range. Secondhand smoke exposure is linked with sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), respiratory infections, ear infection, and more severe asthma attacks.

Prevention is key to the success of creating healthier and safer black communities. Blacks have lower cessation rates than whites because they generally have higher levels of nicotine dependence as a consequence of a preference for menthol cigarettes. Public education campaigns are generally well received and effective in decreasing the number of youth who start smoking, increasing the number of smokers who quit, and making tobacco industry marketing less effective. Research from the 2013 Tips From Former Smokers showed that in areas where the campaign was highly visible, the quit attempt among blacks was 60% higher than those areas that received a standard dose of the campaign.

Environmental prevention strategies like price increases are the most powerful anti-smoking factor for all youth, and enforcing laws that prohibit the sale of cigarettes to youth proves to be most effective in reducing smoking among black teens. However, research shows that black communities have not benefitted from the growing number of smoke-free ordinances and laws that have spread across the country. Research indicates that while white, Hispanic and Asian  communities are benefitting from the spread of comprehensive smoke-free ordinances, geographic region coupled with the lack of prevention resources available in black communities have made it so they aren’t benefitting as much from anti-tobacco campaigns. These issues contribute to the continued disproportionate exposure to secondhand smoke for black youth.

Instead of proposals by lawmakers to decrease funding for Tobacco Prevention and Control in our state, we should look at ways to increase funding. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends comprehensive tobacco prevention and control programming which includes resources for populations that are disproportionately affected as well as funding of $5.98 per person. Yet, Texas’ current funding levels are at .25 cents to $2.50 a person. An increase in per person funding levels could support public health champions in black communities advocating for their health and safety. It’s time we start investing in these communities.

For more information about tobacco prevention and control efforts in our state, visit TexansStandingTall.org or contact Steve Ross at sross@texansstandingtall.org. If you are interested in bringing change to your community, the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council will host its 2017 National Conference on Tobacco or Health Ancillary Meeting on from 5 p.m. to  7 p.m. on Thursday, March 23 in Austin, Texas. For more information on the upcoming conference and the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council, visit SavingBlackLives.org .

Keurig and Anheuser-Busch InBev Team Up For New Alcohol Product

Keurig and Anheuser-Busch InBev announced in early January that they were teaming up to create an appliance that can dispense beer, spirits, mixers, and cocktails in the home.

The companies are still researching how the product will work, but this premature announcement, without so much as a prototype, is troubling for anyone concerned with preventing youth from using alcohol.

Alcohol remains the most used substance by Texas youth. Texans Standing Tall, along with our partners, have taken to the front lines to end the normalization of alcohol for teenagers and young college students. Products like the one Keurig/Anheuser-Busch have planned and SodaStream’s in-home beer brewer (sold in European markets with plans to spread to others) make it easier for youth to access alcohol by having alcoholic beverages more readily available in the home.

These creations add to a growing list of challenges parents and prevention specialists face while working so hard to keep our communities safe. The alcohol industry’s innovative ways to appeal to youth are why Texans Standing Tall focuses on reversing the normalization of alcohol with evidence-based policies like social host ordinances. Since most youth get their alcohol from social settings, limiting youth access at parties and other social events can both reduce youth alcohol consumption and decrease the negative consequences that occur as a result. This includes things like unplanned sexual activity, sexual assault, drinking and driving, property damage, binge drinking, violence/fights, and combination drug use.

“According to the Institute of Alcohol Studies, alcohol use is the leading cause of death, disease, and disability worldwide for people aged 15-49.”

A press release on Anheuser-Busch’s website says that the North American market will be the company’s primary focus for the product. Of course, this isn’t the first time Anheuser-Bush InBev has targeted the United States with gimmicks. Remember when we reported in mid-2016 about their exploitation of American imagery and sentiment to promote their product when they temporarily renamed their beer? According to the Institute of Alcohol Studies, alcohol use is the leading cause of death, disease, and disability worldwide for people aged 15-49. This is a public health pandemic and deserves serious attention, not more gimmicks and novelty products.

The company did not specify a product name or a timeline for when it will hit a shelf near you, but Texans Standing Tall will be keeping an eye on its availability to make sure our fellow community lifeguards are prepared for addressing new threats to our youth and social access challenges. If you are concerned about underage alcohol use in your community, contact Brian Lemons or Libby Banks for more information about how a social host ordinance works and controlled party dispersal trainings.

January is Nation Birth Defects Prevention Month

January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month. While there are many defects that are caused by genetics and other uncontrolled variables, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs) are 100 percent preventable.

FASD is an umbrella term used to describe birth defects that occur when alcohol is consumed during pregnancy, resulting in a range of physical and mental birth defects. The Texas Office for Prevention of Developmental Disabilities estimates that 3,800 babies are born with some form of FASD each year.

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) is the least common but most severe of the FASDs. However, research shows that FAS costs the US $3.6 billion dollars every year. The average cost of care for an individual is estimated around $2 million per year, but can reach as high as $4 million per year for more severe cases.

Modern research confirms what humans have suspected for centuries: alcohol has negative effects on unborn children. Greek philosopher Aristotle observed that children of drunken women were “morose and languid.” In the 1700s and 1800s, two different British surveys examined the effects of alcohol in correlation with mothers who consumed alcohol and found alcohol consumption during pregnancy affected child development. FAS was first described in the modern medical era in France in 1968, then again in the United States in 1973.

What you should know:

  1. There is no cure for FASD.
  2. The central nervous system and brain are developing throughout the entirety of the pregnancy. Any kind of alcohol intake at any time during the pregnancy can result in “hidden” birth defects.
  3. It is possible to accommodate a child born with FASD, but the effects cannot be changed.
  4. “Secondary Disabilities” like alcohol and drug abuse, mental health, school disruption, trouble with the law, and problems with employment can emerge because of FASD.
  5. FASD is 100 percent preventable.

Girls now outpace boys in alcohol consumption. Misinformation about the health risks associated with pairing alcohol with pregnancy continues to flood social media. These ever-evolving trends around alcohol use, along with budget cuts to prevention, and limited to access to healthcare are why prevention specialists must continue working to educate about the risks associated with alcohol use; the health and safety of our youth, present and future, are counting on it. There is no safe amount of any kind of alcohol to drink during pregnancy.

This year, Texans Standing Tall’s Statewide Summit will explore the effects of FASD with a presentation from national speaker, Nora Boesem. Boesem and her husband have fostered over 100 children living with FASD for the state of South Dakota and the Oglala Lakota Sioux Tribe. She is the founder of Roots to Wings and has given a TedX talk on FASD.