High-proof alcohol is a hot topic of discussion. Our neighboring state, Virginia, has passed a new bill called HB 1842. According to Becca Mitchelle, reporting for WTKR, the new bill that is now law legalizes the sale of 151-proof liquor within the state of Virginia. Previously, the legal cap for alcohol content was 101. The new law has both sides of the debate talking about the future impact on Virginia residents.
What Does “Proof” Really Mean?
When it comes to alcohol, word “proof” means the amount of alcohol in a beverage. It’s calculated by doubling the amount of alcohol by volume.
151-proof liquor is the highest amount of alcohol by volume commonly available in the US. It’s legally saleable in 48 states. Now 49. Like many commonwealths, Virginia’s liquor stores are run by the state, making oversight of alcohol sales somewhat simplified.
HB 1842 and the Liquor Lobby
Who exactly are the supporters of the house bill? While it enjoys broad support, the law finds its most significant advocate in Vectre Corporation, a lobbying firm that represents Luxco.
Are you familiar with Everclear? It’s a favorite liquor brand. Everclear sells 151-proof liquor that is also available in a 190-proof variety. Luxco makes Everclear and holds a vested interested in the house bill.
According to Vectre officials, Everclear’s 151-proof liquor is primarily purchased by consumers over the age of 31 and for culinary purposes, not straight consumption.
Also in the “pro” camp is Republican Delegate Brian Knight who cites economic concerns. According to Knight, customers routinely cross state lines to obtain high-proof alcoholic beverages. Knight believes the income and resulting taxes will be beneficial to the state’s overall economy.
A similar bill was vetoed by the governor in 2016 due to concerns about binge drinking on college campuses. Thanks to the legalization of higher proof alcohol sales, the cost per ounce becomes relatively low. Some believe the low cost raises the risk of college students engaging in high consumption or binging.
University authorities have expressed concern over the consumption of high-proof liquor, likening it to a date-rape drug because of its extreme potency. Per the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 60% of college students ages 18-22 drink alcohol in a given month. Of them, two out of three binge.
The consequences of underage and of-age binge drinking are many. The most commonly seen include death, assault, sexual assault, academic problems, and alcohol use disorder (AUD).
A Potential Middle Ground
The newly passed house bill includes a sunset clause stating the bill will expire five years after its adoption, thereby granting future legislators an opportunity to review the impact of the law and force an active choice to either renew or update. The effect of HB 1842 may be mainly positive on restaurants and food manufacturing companies that use the higher potency to reduce food cost.
HB 1842 will expire on July 1, 2022. In the meantime, perhaps the most positive step to take is increasing alcohol education and awareness.