A standard drink is generally calculated as a 12-ounce glass of beer, four-ounce glass of wine, or one-ounce shot of hard liquor. These measures do not allow for differences in alcohol content within beverage categories, such as malt liquor beers (MLBs), which have a higher alcohol content by volume compared to other beers, are typically sold in larger containers, and are priced lower by volume. MLBs have also historically been targeted at lower-income, minority communities. A study in the March issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research has found that MLB drinkers are more likely to be homeless, unemployed, receive public assistance, and tend to drink more alcohol, more often, than other types of drinkers.
"Measuring MLB consumption is difficult because MLBs differ from other beer beverages in two important aspects: container size and alcohol content by volume," said Ricky Bluthenthal, assistant professor at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science and corresponding author for the study. "We found that the combination of these differences resulted in the average malt liquor drinker in our study consuming 80 percent more alcohol per drink than the average regular beer drinker. Although we did not report consequences in this paper, typically the more alcohol consumed the greater the probability of negative alcohol-related consequences for an individual and their community."
"MLBs can be sold in containers as large as 40-ounce bottles, or ’forties’ as they are referred to," said Rhonda Jones-Webb, associate professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota. "’Forties’ are commonly sold chilled and wrapped in brown paper bags for immediate consumption, and independent web sites devoted to malt liquor as well as rap lyrics and movie scripts encourage ’chugging’ the bottles before they get warm. The combined effects of higher alcohol content, larger serving size, and faster consumption can result in higher blood alcohol levels, an increased risk of aggressive behavior, and other alcohol-related problems."
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