NYT exposes alcohol industry efforts to stall important health legislation

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April is Alcohol Awareness Month, so it is fitting that the New York Times is keeping news about a controversial lawsuit involving the alcohol industry in the spotlight. In February, the Oglala Sioux tribe filed a lawsuit against beer manufacturers, distributors and sellers who they claim have been knowingly promoting alcohol abuse on the Pine Ridge Reservation where alcohol is illegal.

According to the Times, the alcohol industry may have had a hand in stalling legislation that would limit consumption on the alcohol-ravaged reservation. A Nebraska bill to limit beer sales in areas that are prone to alcohol-related crime would have a marked impact in Whiteclay, Neb., which borders Pine Ridge and is home to four vendors that, in 2010 alone, sold 4.9 million cans of beer -- most of it to members of the Oglala Sioux -- with devastating social and public health consequences. But the bill has stalled in Nebraska's General Affairs Committee, most of whose members have received contributions from the alcohol industry.

The Times' earlier coverage of the unfolding story at Whiteclay tended to focus on the responsibility of individual beer sellers for the problems at Pine Ridge, while minimizing the role of major brewers. We commend the most recent article for explicitly discussing the role and responsibility of the alcohol industry. One Senator, who once received alcohol industry funding but now works to introduce anti-alcohol legislation around Whiteclay, even acknowledges that the industry has "a pretty good hold on the [General Affairs] committee. They make sure they like the people who sit on the committee."

We hope that future articles about this unfolding story will continue to shine the light on the alcohol industry's efforts to circumvent sustainable efforts to repair the damage their product has caused for the Oglala Sioux population.

View our other coverage on health equity at Pine Ridge:

'But we don't do that at Whiteclay': Health equity and social justice on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation

New York Times coverage of alcohol lawsuit lets major brewers off the hook

NYT's Kristof calls for Bud boycott, decries brewer's greed


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