Deserte News
File - While the state legislature slogs through the sometimes contentious debate about how alcohol, individual citizens need not wait to make their own informed decisions about alcohol consumption.

Many discussions in Utah surrounding alcohol are highly politicized. While it’s true that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which owns this paper, teaches abstinence from alcohol, Utah citizens need not take it on faith that alcohol has detrimental effects.

Currently, in the Beehive State, there are increasing trends toward more public acceptance of drinking in moderation coupled with heightened penalties for improper alcohol consumption, such as drunk driving. Along these lines, there are currently two major pieces of legislation being debated.

“The biggest one,” according to Deseret News columnist Jay Evensen, “would allow restaurants to tear down the barriers current law requires between customers and the place where drinks are prepared. All they would need to do is impose a 10-foot zone between that place and where children may be seated. Alternatively, they could install a smaller, 42-inch wall or railing about 6 feet out.”

The other bill, aimed at further deterring drunk driving, would “lower the minimum legal blood alcohol limit to .05 which, unless Washington state or Hawaii acts first (both are entertaining similar bills), would give Utah the nation’s lowest limit.”

The larger movement to make moderate drinking more comfortable while stigmatizing and penalizing drunk driving seems to mirror broader policies across the nation.

However, there’s increasing evidence that Utahns should curb consumption on the grounds that it's unhealthy. Although for many years evidence suggested that there may actually be some marginal heart health benefits tied to moderate alcohol consumption, in the past several years those studies have come under severe scrutiny and have mostly been disproven.

Meanwhile, the science pointing out the health damage from drinking continues to mount. The World Health Organization warns that drinking increases the risk of depression, suicide, accidents, injuries, violence, anxiety and various liver related complications.

According to reporting by the BBC, a number of cancers have been linked to alcohol consumption including “cancer of the mouth, nose, larynx, oesophagus, colon, liver, and breast cancer in women.” The report estimates that alcohol is implicated in 4 percent to 30 percent of all cancer deaths worldwide. It further suggests that 8 percent of all breast cancer deaths are attributable to alcohol consumption.

Breast cancer researchers at the NIH found that even moderate drinking could result in a “significant increase” in breast cancer risk, and that high consumption could increase risks by 40-50 percent.

It has been well-publicized that drinking during pregnancy can cause a variety of birth defects and subsequent health problems. The BBC report estimates that alcohol may contribute to over 200 diseases and is the the specific cause of 30 particular diseases.

While the state legislature slogs through the sometimes contentious debate about how alcohol should be treated in the Beehive state, individual citizens need not wait for the state before making their own informed decisions about exposure to and consumption of alcohol, regardless of religious convictions.