Jul 28, 2021 - Food and Drink

Scoop: Liquor sales show Iowans are drinking more

Annual liquor sales in Iowa
Data: Alcoholic Beverages Division; Chart: Axios Visuals

Iowa's liquor sales hit a record high of almost $416 million in the fiscal year that ended last month, according to state data Axios obtained this week through a public records request.

  • That's a 13% increase from the previous fiscal year and nearly double the $221 million in sales a decade ago.

Why it matters: We hate to be downers but, research and national sales data suggest that the COVID-19 pandemic has fueled another potential public health crisis, as more Americans are increasing their alcohol intake.

  • Heavy drinking can negatively affect both physical and mental health — and alcohol misuse is among the leading causes of preventable deaths worldwide.
  • The U.S. has seen dramatic increases in alcohol-related emergency room visits and deaths in recent years.

By the numbers: Iowa's liquor consumption has been on the rise for years, according to data from the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division.

  • The most recent fiscal year documented the largest annual percentage point increase in more than a decade.
  • The state reached a monthly all-time high in December when liquor sales almost topped $43 million, nearly 20% more than in December 2019.

Of note: Iowa ranked the 46th worst in the U.S. for excessive drinking last year, according to the United Health Foundation.

  • South Dakota, Montana, North Dakota and Wisconsin were below Iowa's score.

The big picture: U.S. alcohol consumption last year logged its biggest gain in nearly two decades, according to data released last month by International Wine and Spirit Research (IWSR).

  • At-home drinking and flavored alcohol are key factors in the increase, ISWR reported.
  • Drinking among women has increased more rapidly than among men.

💬 Thought bubble: Iowa took steps to assist restaurants and bars during the pandemic, allowing easier alcohol sales with things like to-go cocktails.

  • Those actions deserve further review to evaluate possible unintended consequences.

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