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Revisiting Sin Stocks: Alcohol’s Worse Than You Think

When most people think of social responsibility, particularly investors, they think of tobacco, alcohol, weapons, and gambling companies as among the major examples of what not to support. These are a given, but we are increasingly considering other industries as well: think too-big-to-fail banks, fast food and sugar purveyors, big pharma, and other types of industries. Still, when it comes to the tried-and-true, maybe we have somehow missed a step.

The health risks of tobacco use have been clearly drummed into the modern mind-set, to say the very least. That cat's been out of the bag for decades. However, alcohol hasn't suffered nearly the same reputational damage and vilification despite its own clear risks.

Alcohol may not be considered socially responsible in the investing sense, but its use is socially acceptable; very much so, in fact. Weddings, parties, holiday celebrations, networking mixers, and even just kicking back after a hard day at work are all generally accepted reasons for alcohol use.

That's exactly why some conversation about alcohol is important as people move on to new business baddies like the sugar and salt purveyors that negatively impact health. Alcohol's gotten a strangely free pass in this area.

Shutting down the party
Like almost any bad habit, moderation is key to risk reduction; hardly anything is 100% vice, and plenty of people sip their adult beverages responsibly. However, what about the elephants in the room?

According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 18 million Americans have "an alcohol use disorder." That's when things get rough for people's health, families, jobs, and even the world around them. We're talking about everything from intense bingers to maintenance alcoholics that need the substance flowing into their systems constantly.

The Center for Disease Control lists out quite a list of enhanced risks of illnesses due to alcohol use; many of these overlap with tobacco-related health risks.

  • Chronic disease: Heart disease, liver disease, digestive issues.
  • Cancer: Breast, mouth, throat, liver, colon.
  • Mental health issues: Depression, anxiety.
  • The brain: Learning, memory problems.

If we're going to talk about health care costs, then alcohol should be just as significant as smoking and growing emphasis on healthy versus unhealthy diets.

Ruining tomorrow... today
Meanwhile, some other pretty awful things are often correlated with alcohol abuse; these are ugly and chilling -- and not as uncommon as one might think .

  • Violence: Homicide, suicide, assault including domestic partner abuse.
  • Poisoning: One can, indeed, binge on too much alcohol.
  • Risky sexual behavior: Again, goes against saying, but also includes the risk of sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Children: Higher miscarriage risk, stillbirth, and children afflicted with alcohol-related disorders.
  • Injury: Burns, drownings, car accidents.

The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism's data shows that 60% of all burn injuries, drownings, and homicides can be associated with alcohol. In addition, its overconsumption can be connected with half of severe trauma injuries and sexual assaults, as well as 40% of fatal car accidents, suicides, and deadly falls.

Accepting responsibility
Granted, alcohol companies haven't ignored the risks inherent in its own products; many of these risks are similar to those that plague tobacco companies. To completely ignore parallels in the vice area would be ridiculous for any industry -- that in itself would be a good reason for investors to sell.

So far, though, tobacco companies have had to adjust their businesses far more dramatically. For example, tobacco advertising is banned from television. On the other hand, alcohol companies have free rein to market their products related to everything from humor, to fun, to the possibility of transforming into the wittiest and most attractive person at the party.

Fortunately, alcohol companies do include cautionary information on their websites, as well as educational resources about the dangers of abuse, binge drinking, and other issues. They often contribute or sponsor organizations that fight the disease of addiction .

Still, it's a sticky area. When you think of volume and sales growth some of the best, most "loyal" customers for companies like Molson Coors (NYSE: TAP  ) , Boston Beer (NYSE: SAM  ) , Anheuser-Busch (NYSE: BUD  ) , and Brown-Forman (NYSE: BF-B  ) are going to be some of their most addicted and most troubled ones. If enough people curbed their intake -- obviously an important part of many people getting well -- the industry would have a real problem to contend with. Like tobacco, a whole lot of quitters shrinks the market.

Everyone has reason to think about such impacts. In the investing sense, SRI is all about industries' impacts on others -- and more investors are embracing that philosophy. It's a mind-opening exercise to target stocks that give some of us the ability to sleep peacefully at night. Fortunately, these days there are many stocks that we can buy beyond tobacco, alcohol, and other companies' shares we may find unsavory.

Pondering what industries are socially responsible and socially acceptable is an idea whose time has come. Full awareness of the dangers inherent in certain industries' products in our own lives as well as the ramifications of those in our investment portfolios is a great first step. It's all about creating a healthier life, portfolio, and even help steer the world in more positive directions.

Apple, not alcohol
Tech innovations are world-changing, including helping users improve their health and well-being. Apple recently recruited a secret-development "dream team" to guarantee its newest smart device was kept hidden from the public for as long as possible. But the secret has leaked, and some early viewers are claiming its everyday impact could trump the iPod, iPhone, and the iPad. In fact, ABI Research predicts 485 million of this type of device will be sold per year. But one small company makes Apple's gadget possible. And its stock price has nearly unlimited room to run for early in-the-know investors. To be one of them, and see Apple's newest smart gizmo, just click here!

Check back at for more of Alyce Lomax's columns on environmental, social, and governance issues.

Read/Post Comments (62) | Recommend This Article (34)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

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  • Report this Comment On September 02, 2014, at 12:46 PM, SkepikI wrote:

    OK Alyce I'll bite... I personally find these "unsavory" because they are manufactured beer...even Boston which claims to be craft beer but isnt any more...

    Personally I consider Beer and wine as food, and tend to engage it with food. And for the record, its ok with me for investments with publicly held stock that produce beer and wine to lose some investment from "cartel activity"... my slang for those who elect themselves to decide what is socially acceptable and what is not (yes you too) I think this because mostly those enterprises big enough to need equity investment from markets make IMHO mediocre products, almost universally. That seems to follow "Bigness" even if they start out as fine wine or craft beer producers...... sad but true.

  • Report this Comment On September 02, 2014, at 1:17 PM, TMFLomax wrote:

    SkepikI, that's a good point that maybe the bigger industry has turned it into a mass-produced and lesser version of the products. I totally get that craft beer is a neat thing, and I think it's an interesting hobby that some people make beer at home, experimentation in recipes and flavors. I've seen some interesting ones that I'm not sure would taste good, but I think some people really do like them. (And I also remember when Sam Adams was definitely differentiated in that way.)

    Agreed that in moderation, with meals, wine complementing certain foods, is fine. And I did forget to mention the counterpoint that like a lot of other things like this, there are some health benefits in a glass of wine or two -- but I think even that is more widely discussed in media, etc.

    I agree moderation is certainly not dangerous (although of course people probably shouldn't drive if they're kind of teetering on the edge of being more affected than they think) -- but I do think that negatives need to be much better disseminated, the cautionary parts, more serious "public services announcements." I think consumers and investors have many risks to think about regarding the overuse and under informed side of substances like alcohol.


  • Report this Comment On September 02, 2014, at 2:25 PM, Mathman6577 wrote:

    I'm going to stick with my SAM stock and keep drinking the beer, which I still think is a craft brewery.

  • Report this Comment On September 02, 2014, at 2:42 PM, BillFromNY wrote:

    Winston Churchill, who lived for ninety years, is famously quoted as having said,

    "Always remember that I have taken more out of alcohol than alcohol has taken out of me."

    If there is such a thing as a functioning alcoholic, it was Churchill. He was never without some level of alcohol in his blood. A brandy awaited him every morning on his awakening.

    Unfortunately, it seems like there are very, very few who can handle alcohol in this fashion.

    I am surprised that so many in the Mediterranean countries can, it is said, restrain themselves to one or two glasses of wine with meals without experimenting with trying a little more.

  • Report this Comment On September 02, 2014, at 4:56 PM, gdavidge wrote:

    Investing in "oil" stocks might be very bad for our health. Investing in "organic" stocks such as Whole Foods, or one of the solar stocks that 'fry' birds is not good either. True, humans are wrecking this planet, and investing in dangerous companies everyday. All stocks, bonds for that matter, have moral and environmental issues. What people do to this earth and their fellow man is called living. We all just need to be a little bit more conscious of our living. Know your surroundings and know that each action we take effects someone, something, and take action accordingly.

  • Report this Comment On September 02, 2014, at 5:34 PM, SkepikI wrote:

    Well, Mathman, in an effort to cordially change your opinion, I invite you to visit Beervana maybe for the OBF last full weekend in July every year.... its a pleasant way to change your mind, and I bet you a beer it will......

  • Report this Comment On September 02, 2014, at 7:47 PM, LazyCapitalist wrote:

    "So far, though, tobacco companies have had to adjust their businesses far more dramatically. On the other hand, alcohol companies have free rein to market their products related to everything from humor, to fun, to the possibility of transforming into the wittiest and most attractive person at the party."

    Well, they certainly don't have free rein. The alcohol industry does self-regulate their own commercials. For example, have you ever noticed that nobody ever drinks in alcohol commercials? Everybody and the pet dog has a bottle of beer in their hands, but nobody is actually seen drinking the product being advertised.

    And alcohol companies have had to adjust their business in the fairly recent past. It wasn't too long ago (1984) that the drinking age in many states was as low as 18. You and I are too young to remember that, but our parents could tell us about it.

    Also, there are many dry counties in America where the sale of alcohol is prohibited completely. As well as many other various liquor laws that prohibit the sale of alcohol online in certain states. And there are many alcoholic beverage control states where the government has a monopoly on the sale and/or distribution of alcohol.

    Whether it is advertising, distribution, or sales, the restrictions on alcohol in this country (either self-regulated or government-regulated) are rather numerous.

  • Report this Comment On September 02, 2014, at 10:38 PM, TMFLomax wrote:

    SuntanIronMan, I actually do remember when the drinking age was 18 -- I was a teenager when it moved to 21 (but some people were under some grandfather clause that allowed them to buy under the age of 21, I guess because they turned 18 before the law went through). I also remember when basically, a parent could send I dunno, a five-year old with some change into a store to buy cigarettes because they didn't feel like getting out of the car. (Hopefully not five, but seriously, little kids. Pretty mind blowing.)

    Granted in all this discussion, the attitude towards both alcohol and tobacco has changed, big time, since I was a kid compared to now. Drinking and driving wasn't as frowned upon as it is now, by far. If I remember correctly, MADD really brought that issue to the fore, which was a good, good thing.

    Your points are all good. Those are some good examples of restrictions and yes, they do imply the dangers. I still think that societally though, they get shrugged off and put to back of mind pretty easily.


  • Report this Comment On September 02, 2014, at 11:34 PM, LazyCapitalist wrote:


    I don't believe that at all. You look WAY too young in your profile picture to have been a teenager back then. :)

  • Report this Comment On September 03, 2014, at 8:14 AM, TMFLomax wrote:

    SuntanIronMan, in the spirit of full disclosure, I think the profile pic is 5 years old. I'd like to think I haven't changed a BIT though. ;)


  • Report this Comment On September 03, 2014, at 9:48 AM, MrGrumpyPants wrote:

    This article about “sin” and investing highlights a mindset that is ascendant today: that the group knows better than the individual investor what is morally correct for him. Almost universally, the companies that an individual living in the United States may invest in are engaged in activities that serve customers, attempt to create wealth, and do more good than harm. Additionally, any harm that may come from the activities undertaken by such a profit-seeking organization is usually of the kind termed “first-world problems” – things that are only viewed as problems by people who eat every day and don’t have to engage in violence to survive until nightfall. These include notions like “that CEO makes more money than the people on the manufacturing line.”

    The idea, for example, that Starbucks is more ethical than, say, BP or Brown-Forman is more perception than reality. Starbucks seeks to return profit to its owners, just like those other two companies. Starbucks pays its CEO many millions. In fact, by one measure ( ), Howard Schultz is the highest-paid CEO in the Northwest – a region that includes Microsoft and Amazon. Taking what is commonly called sin as a measure, Starbucks should be considered a sinner, because the company sells a physiologically addictive substance – caffeine. But in reality, all three of these companies are good, because they are highly profitable and they intentionally hurt no one.

    Alcohol may be misused, as may caffeine. Oil is central to global politics, even war. But to say to investors that they are immoral for investing in any of these three companies is to engage in the sort of preaching, nagging misdirection that puts politics above profits, and attempts to replace the individual investor’s morality with the fashion of the general public. If the performance of the author’s feel-good portfolio is any indication (-17.92% to the S&P as of 8/28/14), “social responsibility” means losing money. For me, that is immoral. The moral choice for me is to consider profitability and wealth-creation first, then give whatever portion of that wealth seems reasonable to the organizations or movements that seem right to me, regardless of the scolds.

  • Report this Comment On September 03, 2014, at 1:39 PM, hbofbyu wrote:

    Comparing alcohol to caffeine? They may both be addicting but it stops there.

    The societal costs of alcohol are easy to gloss over because alcohol is so woven into our dinners, sporting events and frat parties.

    According to the CDC every drink you take costs the US economy $1.90 ($224 billion). The damage caused by alcohol impaired drivers is the same as if a Boeing 747 with over 500 passengers crashed every eight days killing everyone. In Russia, 1 in 5 male deaths is directly attributed to alcohol.

    Prohibition was a failure but that doesn't mean that efforts shouldn't be made to stop kids from ever taking their first drink. I don't see much upside to alcohol consumption and I would rather be around people who smoke than people who are mentally and physically impaired - even by small degrees. I won't invest in alcohol related stocks.

  • Report this Comment On September 03, 2014, at 4:22 PM, KayakerRW wrote:


    I read this article at lunch and found it hard to believe that someone would suggest an equivalence between alcohol and coffee in terms of the effects of consuming the product. I didn’t have time to respond then, so I was glad to see your response.


    You call the alcohol issue a “first world problem.”

    By that are you implying that we shouldn’t attempt to deal with it, solve it, or at least improve the situation?

    I accept the idea that basing investment decisions on whether something is a “sin stock” can be more complex than first meets the eye, and I believe that the decision to invest is up to the individual.

    However, the Motley Fool is a community of investors with diverse interests, knowledge, and beliefs, so I like to read different viewpoints, including articles that suggest we strongly consider the moral implications of our investment decisions as well as the financial.

    It is still up to me and each individual member of the MF community to make those decisions.

    You began by stating that “This article about “sin” and investing highlights a mindset that is ascendant today: that the group knows better than the individual investor what is morally correct for him.”

    You are aware that this is a “first world problem?”

  • Report this Comment On September 03, 2014, at 4:39 PM, TMFLomax wrote:

    Thanks for the great discussion everyone -- hbofbyu, I appreciate those figures you presented -- I found the rundown of the stats about short-term injuries/deaths etc. jarring, but yours add another layer of perspective.

    I'm not a fan of "prohibition" -- I think awareness and education and discussion of choices is a far more positive avenue. KayakerRW, totally true that everyone in this community has their choices to make about all kinds of investments and decisions as consumers, but I think the robust conversations we have at TMF allow us all to think things through.


  • Report this Comment On September 03, 2014, at 5:18 PM, NOTvuffett wrote:

    Co-incidentally, I am now drinking a beer and feel like lighting up a cigarette, lol.

    During the middle ages, it was safer to drink a beer than the water they had. What did you have to say about water back then? lol

  • Report this Comment On September 03, 2014, at 5:50 PM, notyouagain wrote:

    Still waiting. And will probably die still waiting.

    Waiting for what?

    Fairness, just fairness.

    Your legal buzz kills how many people a year, a month, a week, how many a day, heck how many people die every minute in alcohol-related deaths?

    Yet your is legal and mine isn't. Oh, don't think I'm a law-breaking pothead. Haven't had a buzz in ten years. Because I decided that long ago that I'd rather go without a buzz than maintain any friendships that could somehow get me in trouble.

    Will I ever be allowed to catch a legal buzz in my lifetime without having to drink nasty tasting alcohol?

    I'm telling you, I seriously doubt if anyone has ever died from mine.

    How many victims of violent cartels die every day just to keep marijuana illegal? The very fact of keeping it illegal plays a large part of keeping these killers in business.

    Enjoy your hypocritical government's blessing; have a drink. Yech.

  • Report this Comment On September 03, 2014, at 6:33 PM, TMFFlygal wrote:

    Can we talk about the ethics of payday loans. I was an officer in the military, our enlisted men and women were stalked by payday lenders. People become slaves to the lenders, I almost barfed the first time I went to a Wells Fargo ATM and they said "we now do payday loans".

  • Report this Comment On September 03, 2014, at 7:28 PM, NOTvuffett wrote:

    Flygal5, I live in a city next to one that has 3 payday loan places in one strip center.

    To add insult to injury, they are in proximity to a rent to own center, lol.

  • Report this Comment On September 03, 2014, at 8:00 PM, TMFLomax wrote:

    Flygal5, that's another one that, IMO, fits into the area. I've covered too big to fail banks, subprime lending, etc., in the past, but not payday lenders and yes -- one of those abusive areas.


  • Report this Comment On September 04, 2014, at 8:13 AM, deckdawg wrote:

    I often drink wine with dinner, and every once in a while drink a beer. But, I don't feel comfortable investing in alcohol companies, because I do know that alcohol is widely misused. (And I don't invest in pay day lenders or any other company that I perceive as profiting off the misery of the poor). But that is very much my own personal decision. I would not suggest to anyone else what is an acceptable investment. Trying to lay down clear guidelines soon becomes a tangled mess. Will we also not invest in any company that sells beer or wine? (Grocers, Costco, Whole Foods, Buffalo Wild Wings). Why is is OK to invest in companies that sell and serve alcohol, but not in companies that make it? (Or, maybe for some, its not OK?). So, while it might be interesting to discuss socially responsible investing, it seems to me that it is more a matter of the heart, rather than something that can be clearly defined.

  • Report this Comment On September 04, 2014, at 10:51 AM, KBecks wrote:

    I have been thinking about Constellation Brands. I also have been thinking about whether I should invest in credit card cos. and collection agencies when people can get so messed up with massive debt.

  • Report this Comment On September 04, 2014, at 11:06 AM, Mathman6577 wrote:

    Interesting topic but it probably isn't "socially responsible" to invest in most companies because there will always be someone that will object to their products or services. Who is right?

    Personally I object to companies whose executives bundle money and host fundraisers for certain political candidates and criticize other executives who don't meet their views on certain topics but I don't begrudge people who invest in those companies.

  • Report this Comment On September 04, 2014, at 11:35 AM, CMFStan8331 wrote:

    I agree that we, as a society, are far too cavalier about the risks of alcohol abuse. However, I don't believe it makes sense to avoid investing in companies that make and/or sell alcohol, because I don't believe it makes any sense to try to restrict the availability of alcohol, any more than it makes sense to outlaw other recreational drugs. If the extremes we have gone to in outlawing marijuana, cocaine, heroin, etc. have not significantly reduced consumption, then avoiding alcohol company stocks can be expected to have no positive impact whatsoever.

    I think we should be putting our efforts and scarce resources into what actually helps the problem - addiction treatment programs, primarily, and education, to a lesser extent (education tends to have lower efficacy than the best treatment programs, probably due to the human tendency to not believe something will happen to us until it actually does).

    What I can support is diverting all food and beverage investments (and customer purchases) into companies who are committed to using organic - or at least healthier than standard - ingredients. If enough folks start insisting on better ingredients, more companies will start to take the hint and adjust their practices to satisfy demand.

  • Report this Comment On September 05, 2014, at 9:28 AM, Mathman6577 wrote:

    @notvuffett: good point about the water .... unsafe water exists to this day and probably kills a lot of people. So again, who is to say what is "socially irresponsible"?

  • Report this Comment On September 05, 2014, at 10:49 AM, jlclayton wrote:

    There is one major difference between alcohol and tobacco, and I believe that it is the difference tobacco is looked at as the worse vice. Someone can drink a glass of alcohol in a restaurant, and it does not affect the other patrons or employees. However, if someone smokes a cigarette, the surrounding air is polluted with the smoke for all of the others. The problems that result from alcohol use occur when the alcohol use is excessive. A smoker may only have 1 cigarette a day, but they are still polluting the air during that time.

    While there are many things that can be used as a vice and abused, I differentiate those that can be enjoyed safely without affecting others and those that have a negative affect on those around them with just their regular intended use.

  • Report this Comment On September 05, 2014, at 12:44 PM, hbofbyu wrote:

    Outlawing marijuana, cocaine, heroin, DOES reduce consumption. It would be preposterous think otherwise.

    Lest we forget the lessons of history, consider that in the late 1800's, opium was legal in China. By 1900, ninety million Chinese were addicted to the drug, and it took fifty years of repressive police measures and rehabilitation to correct the problem. Today, opium and other addictive drugs are illegal.

    Amersterdam has the highest crime rate in Europe. Decriminalizing drug use increases rates of addiction which increases the number of addicts - which increases unemployment, welfare, social programs and criminal behavior in other areas.

  • Report this Comment On September 05, 2014, at 12:50 PM, TMFFischer wrote:

    Good article, Alyce!

    A thought to all: If you're a fairly regular drinker, say someone who enjoys a drink or two on most evenings as a way to unwind after work, try going a week or two without any at all, and then see if you want to go back to the same habit -- or if you decide to shift to more moderation (special occasions, etc). As one consideration, you do get a considerably better night's sleep without any alcohol in your system, and sleep deprivation is proven to build over time the more you experience even some of it.

    If you enjoy some alcohol as a treat in the evening, much like food, then find a replacement for it while you take this hiatus, so you aren't just staring at the walls. Enjoy some other special food or non-alcoholic drink that you really like, as your treat. Make a ritual of that.

    Best, Jeff

  • Report this Comment On September 05, 2014, at 2:29 PM, Mathman6577 wrote:

    This article and some of the comments could have been written a hundred years ago, when the do-gooders and holier-than-thou types were just starting to talk about Prohibition.

    Sorry, Jeff, I don't agree with your hiatus pitch.

  • Report this Comment On September 05, 2014, at 2:36 PM, LittleBluestem wrote:

    Someone I know only slightly actually said to me last summer at a picnic outing, "You don't drink? Then how do you relax?"


  • Report this Comment On September 05, 2014, at 2:48 PM, notyouagain wrote:

    Look, for people who want to lecture others about the 'evils' of their preferred ways to unwind while conveniently ignoring the mass murderers responsible for countless deaths that keeping marijuana illegal keeps in business and the countless people killed every year in alcohol related deaths, I just want to remind you...


    I am the one who has not had a buzz of any kind in ten or twelve years!

    Just saying...mine is less harmful than yours, yet yours is legal and mine isn't.

    If marijuana's illegal, alcohol should be illegal too.

  • Report this Comment On September 05, 2014, at 3:01 PM, LittleBluestem wrote:

    On marijuana: I am not opposed to legalization. Regardless of what certain politicians may or may not have done, yes, I have inhaled - a long time ago. But looking back on those occasions from my current perspective, there was never a buzz under which I could have safely operated anything more complicated than a can opener. In the privacy of your home, maybe at a "toking bar" with a designated driver safely outside the reach of the weed, okay fine. But not in a park or other place where you could expose someone who should not, or does not want, exposure. That's my stance on it.

  • Report this Comment On September 05, 2014, at 3:21 PM, notyouagain wrote:

    I would be FINE with BOTH being illegal and mandatory jail time minimum of one year for people who drink and drive.

    Make it fair.

  • Report this Comment On September 05, 2014, at 3:42 PM, KayakerRW wrote:


    Do you really think that because some countries (mostly 3rd world) have unsafe drinking water, then that's a good reason to drink alcoholic beverages in the U.S.?

    If someone is concerned about unsafe drinking water, they can invest in companies making drinking water safer or give to charities that improve sanitation and water quality in 3rd world countries.

    I haven't seen any comments stating that all manufacturing and distribution of alcohol should be illegal (Prohibition), so I'm not sure why you're comparing this discussion to the arguments 100 years ago about Prohibition.

  • Report this Comment On September 05, 2014, at 5:02 PM, LittleBluestem wrote:

    notyouagain, 'fair' makes perfect sense. I think the concept of DUI already attempts to provide some parity in the case of motor vehicles.

    However 'fair' is not necessarily synonymous with 'equal' since the effects and prospects of exposure of others are not the same. For example, even if you are permitted to light up in your own home, is it appropriate to do so where children will be exposed to the intoxicating (and somewhat toxic, similar to tobacco smoke) fumes? And, yes, I do feel that we have some catching up to do on exposure of children to tobacco smoke in the home too. But having a glass of wine at the dinner table is not going to make little Susie "relaxed" too. So maybe you should stick to the hash brownies instead, but keep them locked up and out of reach of the kids.

    What I do not know is if there is an easily measured THC level that can be considered a threshold for reasonable assurance that a person can still safely operate a motor vehicle (or perform other tasks) as there are accepted threshold levels for blood alcohol. Or is it more along the lines of "one toke, you're out?"

    I don't know the answers, but I don't think it is really as simple as saying that pot should be legal, period. It does have risks not just to those who imbibe but also to others.

  • Report this Comment On September 05, 2014, at 5:17 PM, notyouagain wrote:

    Fine. They should both be illegal. Alcohol kills. KILLS!

    Marijuana doesn't. And it irks me no end, that it has been so stigmatized by lies promulgated by people who have never even tried it, and know nothing but what they have been hearing each other say about it, that my poor little niece has two or three seizures a week, and the only thing that might help her that doesn't involve drilling holes in her head, is unavailable in this state!

    So, I see that you give drunks credit for being responsible around their children!

    If everyone who might occasionally get high is a pothead, be fair.

    Everyone who occasionally drinks is a drunk, then.

    And they have a pretty sorry record.

  • Report this Comment On September 05, 2014, at 5:23 PM, Mathman6577 wrote:

    Kayaker: I said (if you read my comments carefully, which you probably didn't) is that the discussion about alcohol here (from some commentors) is very much like what was written a hundred years ago (BEFORE Prohibition). I didn't say that the comments demanded Prohibition.

    Regarding the water statement lighten up a little. I'm being sarcastic.

  • Report this Comment On September 05, 2014, at 5:24 PM, notyouagain wrote:

    See how that worked?

    Responsible adults who choose to occasionally get high deserve the same amount of credit for being responsible around their children that people who drink do!

    More, actually.

    I've watched alcoholics and how their families suffer. It's sickening.

  • Report this Comment On September 05, 2014, at 5:36 PM, LittleBluestem wrote:

    I think you are the one who is not being fair, notyouagain. You are painting everyone with too broad a brush by lumping folks under the terms potheads and drunks and by making (inaccurate) assumptions about who I consider to be responsible. You are also mixing medicinal usage in with recreational usage by bringing your niece's medical condition into the discussion. Again, I have no objection to legalizing marijuana. Certainly I have no objection to medical usage being allowed if that is what works for her. As I said, it is not a simple issue.

  • Report this Comment On September 05, 2014, at 5:56 PM, notyouagain wrote:


    I hope you realize I'm sounding more hostile than I actually am. I'm sorry.

    This issue does bother me. A lot. But I need to be more careful about sounding like I'm biting someone's head off who is simply trying to have a rational conversation.

    I have actually gotten so used to being clearheaded for the last ten or twelve years I think I like it.

    I just think it should be my choice, not someone else's. I'm responsible until I prove I'm not.

    And I'm not about to give anyone the satisfaction of proving that.

  • Report this Comment On September 06, 2014, at 3:21 PM, Mathman6577 wrote:


    There are no rational conversations online anymore. Its a free for all and if someone disagrees with a statement there is usually a degrading response.

    The left-wing is especially good at degrading people that disagree with their side of an issue, especially "socially acceptable" behavior or prevailing theory/conventional wisdom (like climate change or the min wage issue).

    The usual tactic is to say that they are on the correct side of the issue and list a few points based upon some study or academic research. If someone questions them there is a big uproar.

  • Report this Comment On September 06, 2014, at 7:09 PM, HoosierRube wrote:

    The Return of Carrie Nation

  • Report this Comment On September 07, 2014, at 6:19 AM, Mathman6577 wrote:
  • Report this Comment On September 08, 2014, at 5:28 PM, dragonmonkey wrote:

    Drinking one to two alcoholic drinks per day has proven health benefits. Overconsumption of many normal, legal products is unhealthy. Most over-the -counter medications fall into this category. Should tylenol or sleeping pills manufacturers be sin stocks too? We've even had a couple unfortunate deaths from overconsumption of water in basic training.

    Prior to fully understanding the fermentation process, Belgian monks referred to it as "God is good." Avoiding alcohol stocks for any reason other than fundamentals is ridiculous.

    Full disclosure...home brewer for 2 years.

  • Report this Comment On September 08, 2014, at 9:04 PM, Mathman6577 wrote:

    Dragon: any good amber lagers being readied?

  • Report this Comment On September 09, 2014, at 4:59 PM, FriendlyKenny wrote:

    Alyce, don't take this the wrong way, but I was appalled to see that you were an English major! No offense, but the errors in your article should have been edited out.

  • Report this Comment On September 09, 2014, at 5:11 PM, dragonmonkey wrote:

    Ales...just moved to London this month so I need a few weeks before the next DIPA batch.

    Further disclosure...I own BREW and am eyeballing VCO. I also make great limoncello.

  • Report this Comment On September 10, 2014, at 5:02 AM, NOTvuffett wrote:

    more than half of liver poisonings in the US are from acetomenophen.

  • Report this Comment On September 10, 2014, at 6:26 AM, Mathman6577 wrote:

    I have bottle of limoncello in the freezer (and it doesn't freeze).

  • Report this Comment On September 12, 2014, at 2:51 AM, Minow wrote:

    Hmm, all this talk about alcohol is making me thirsty! I think I'll have me a Green-Label Johny Walker Scotch on the rocks with a "Fat Cuban"...cigar that is!

  • Report this Comment On September 12, 2014, at 12:47 PM, damilkman wrote:

    Interesting thread. Just want to comment about what Starbucks sells. Starbucks sells to people addicted to sugar not caffeine. I'll make the case that sugar kills far more than alcohol. Funny how cigs, alcohol, and oil are unethical. But Starbucks and any major food brand is not despite lacing everything with sugar.

    A great experiment for the list is eat foods that are not sugar saturated and then try to go back. I find now that the sugar content is so heavy that after eating a sugar reduced diet consuming modern packaged food is unpalatable.

  • Report this Comment On September 12, 2014, at 11:54 PM, LazyCapitalist wrote:


    Where have you been? Sugar water manufacturers, salted potato pressings makers, and fast food purveyors have been public enemy number one in this country for a long time now.

  • Report this Comment On September 15, 2014, at 12:13 PM, damilkman wrote:

    I just have issues with selective morality. We hate alcohol and Ciggie companies but Starbucks is okay. We hate CEO's for their high pay but adore movie or rock stars who get paid the same amount even if their product bombs. Now the NFL is suspending players for morals that raise the brand of an entertainer.

    Just as we arbitrarily pick winners and losers now were picking what is moral and immoral even when the actions of the moral and amoral are identical.

    Not saying we should not label. Lets label consistently. And SuntanIronMan don't forget powered apple byproduct that has all the apple removed, laced with corn syrup and sold as apple juice. :)

  • Report this Comment On September 17, 2014, at 11:43 PM, bikeboatski wrote:

    I know things are changing in our society (not so much in the world as a whole) but I think its magical thinking to imagine our country without alcohol. And the commenters here, lest they give one a skewed perspective, are NOT representitive of the population at large. As a physician I am well aware of the problems of alcoholics. But for the overwhelming majority of people it can be used in moderation and left alone at other times (unlike tobacco) Also, unlike tobacco, it usually takes considerable amounts over a long time to do harm. And is it realistic to expect everyone to stop for the sake of the few? I think not and this article is idealistic to say the least.

  • Report this Comment On September 20, 2014, at 6:55 AM, Mathman6577 wrote:

    @bikeboatski: There are some people (and some Fool writers) that live in an idealized world and feel that they know what is best for the majority of the population. And if one questions their beliefs they are tarred and feathered.

  • Report this Comment On September 20, 2014, at 7:56 AM, LazyCapitalist wrote:


    When did Ms. Lomax tar and feather you for your comments? She has been very respectful to commenters here (even though one or two commenters have been less than respectful to her).


    She never once said that everybody should stop drinking alcohol. She also said in a reply that she is not a fan of prohibition. Talking about the dangers of alcohol abuse is not the same as saying that responsible drinkers shouldn't drink.

    (Personal Disclosure: I own shares of Stock Spirits Group.)

  • Report this Comment On September 20, 2014, at 11:06 AM, Mathman6577 wrote:

    @suntan: I don't think you really read my comments. Did I say this particular author did? No. I used the term "some Fool writers" and I'm talking about investment recommendations for (or against) companies that meet (or don't) their idealist philosophies.

  • Report this Comment On September 26, 2014, at 11:25 AM, catoismymotor wrote:

    As with many things alcohol is best enjoyed in moderation. Food, retail therapy, pot, Netflix are also best enjoyed in moderation.

    Once upon a time alcohol was the go to substance when people would choose to self medicate for physical ailments and psychological relief. Now we have prescription and over the counter medicines that help with many of the day to day discomforts.

    As for public companies that specialize in alcohol production, I have nothing against them. It would be hypocritical if I did. I make my own hard apple cider. I have a friend in California that is a professional wine maker. I also have another friend in New York state that owns, with her family, a distillery.

    Alcohol companies, in my opinion, are fine to invest in. Most are run by responsible people that want you to enjoy their product but not to your detriment. They are open and honest about that. I think even those that are the most sociopathic of the group have learned from the tobacco industry and don't wish to repeat their fark ups.

  • Report this Comment On September 28, 2014, at 11:03 PM, LazyCapitalist wrote:


    "Once upon a time alcohol was the go to substance when people would choose to self medicate for physical ailments and psychological relief."

    Yeah... but we know better now, lol. We now know that alcohol can't cure poisonous snake bites and whatnot (as was the belief by many back in the 1800s). Incidentally, alcohol actually speeds up venom absorption.

    And even when we had 20th century 'medicinal liquor', most doctors by that time knew it wasn't an actually a treatment for anything. It was just a clever way of getting around prohibition laws. Go to a doctor, say you have an illness, the doctor would write you a prescription for whiskey, and you would take that whiskey prescription to a pharmacist.

  • Report this Comment On September 28, 2014, at 11:18 PM, LazyCapitalist wrote:

    (Pardon me if this is a double-post. My first attempt seems to have not posted.)


    "Once upon a time alcohol was the go to substance when people would choose to self medicate for physical ailments and psychological relief."

    Yes, that is true. It once was used as a treatment for various ailments. But we know better now, lol. We now know that alcohol can't cure poisonous snake bites and whatnot (as was the belief by many in the 1800s). Incidentally, alcohol actually speeds up venom absorption.

    Even when we had 'medicinal liquor' back in the 1920s and 30s, most (reputable) doctors knew by that point that alcohol wasn't a treatment for anything. It was just a clever way of getting around prohibition laws. Go to a doctor and say that you have an illness and the doctor would prescribe you some whiskey or another liquor. You take that prescription to a pharmacist and the pharmacist would sell you some (100% legal) whiskey.

  • Report this Comment On September 30, 2014, at 11:49 AM, HoosierRube wrote:

    The real take-away is 'people cannot be trusted' to live in the manner that <insert name here> believes you should.

    It's not about alcohol. Its not about drugs. Its not about obesity. Its about people and controlling their lives because they just are not capable of doing it themselves. And we, the elites, know whats best for everyone, everywhere and all the time. For we are perfect.

    And now they throw in, 'We all voted to provide you with health care. Now we can tell you what to do."

    And that is the truth of the matter. A lot of self-serving people wanting to describe what the perfect person is. And if you do not comply, you're labeled a criminal and thrown in jail. Or they just ruin your ability to make a living. Or take your children. All of that happens every day.

    And those people pat themselves on the back every time they ruin someones life.

    Here is what i know about life, nothing. I dont know why im here. I dont know what is right and what is wrong. And neither do you.

    If you don't believe any of this, then explain why the United States, the self-proclaimed most free county in the world has more people in jail then anyone...

    I know why. Self-serving, self-righteous people that 'have the answer'. And you either obey them, or go to jail, or lose your job, or lose your family or all of the above.

    There is no depravity that the self-righteous wont inflict on others in the name of 'living correctly'.

    I for one, here towards the end of my life, do not regret a single drunken, howl at the moon night I've ever had. I suffer no physical ailments. I have an intact family. And i'm a happy guy.

    Much happier than any of the folks looking to control others. They'll spend there entire lives doing that; making life hard, if not outright ruining lives of other people.

    On the plus side, there does come a day of reckoning when all the lies are stripped aside and all of your secrets and all of your short-comings are laid bare and your soul revealed.

    Lets lay one lie aside now.. This isn't about 'sin stocks'.. This is about sinners. And more accurately, its about those we label as sinners. And how we may control them.

  • Report this Comment On October 02, 2014, at 8:17 AM, Lyle1969 wrote:

    Alice, I've enjoyed many of your articles. I prefer to invest in companies that are adding value to the world, and there are many. I appreciate many of the issues you bring up, please continue.

    David Gardner said somewhere in a video that he likes to invest in companies (approximate quote...) "where if everyone used their product or service the world would be a better place..."

    That was a broad stroke statement and shouldn't be interpreted too narrowly. But it was a great comment.

    Has anyone come up with a list of questions people could answer re a particular company, and in a heuristic way, decide for themselves whether its a 'socially responsible' investment. As most people would prefer not to have others tell them what to believe, etc., this would be a great way for people to interpret and act in their own 'socially responsible' way. One person is concerned about global warming and the petroleum industry, another about exploiting developing world resources and manufacturing practices, another about defense industry and profiting off of dictators, another about predatory financial practices, and the list goes on.

    But a rubric of questions would be a great evaluative tool...just like we have for evaluating the economics, like those 25 points used at the Fool for economics.

    This may enable people to better take responsibility for the social impact of their investing.

    Thanks for consistently stirring up the 'ethical' hornets nest. We need to be disturbed from time to time.

  • Report this Comment On November 07, 2014, at 1:45 AM, LazyCapitalist wrote:

    I've recently began rethinking my previous position on alcohol companies. And by recently, I mean yesterday.

    I wish I could say it was this article that convinced me, but it was actually... this most recent episode of South Park (season 18, episode 6, "Freemium Isn't Free"). Don't laugh. They can be pretty persuasive when they want to be.

    I had actually sold out of all of my alcohol stocks the previous week. It was unrelated to this, as I was simply selling some of my British securities to raise a little cash to better prepare for a market pullback (SABMiller, Diageo, Stock Spirits Group).

    Incidentally, it was a good thing I did raise some cash, because Stock Spirits got destroyed this week (down about 27% in one day) after it posted a profit warning. Dodged a bullet there.

    I was contemplating whether or not to re-buy Stock Spirits Group at a much cheaper share price until I saw that South Park episode. It made me rethink how I viewed about investing in an alcohol company. I don't know if I'll stay away from alcohol investments completely in the future, but I know I have some thinking to do.

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Alyce Lomax

Alyce Lomax is a columnist for specializing in environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues and an analyst for Motley Fool One. From October 2010 through June 2015, she managed the real-money Prosocial Portfolio, which integrated socially responsible investing factors into stock analysis.

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