The alcohol industry is the worldwide group of businesses responsible for the manufacture and sale of alcoholic drinks. This includes beer, wine and hard liquors of various kinds, as well as the businesses that sell these drinks, such as bars, pubs and liquor stores. The alcohol industry is the subject of controversy because of the perceived negative effects of its products, including alcoholism and other health problems as well as drunk driving.
Alcoholic drinks are created by the fermentation of fruits, grains or other vegetable matter. They have been used by humans since prehistory; archaeologists believe that beer and wines predate written language. Beer, in particular, is the third most popular drink of any kind around the world, after water and tea. The alcohol industry is accordingly large and influential.
Products of the alcohol industry include beer, a drink that is made from fermented grains and that generally has a low alcohol content. Its popularity is reflected in the social rituals that have grown up around it, including games, specialty stores and brewery tours, as well as its widespread use as a relaxant. Wine, made from grapes, has a slightly higher cultural cachet and a higher alcohol content. Collectors and connoisseurs of wine celebrate its varieties, which differ not only by location and winery but even by the year of its production. Strong spirits, including rum, vodka and whiskey, have high alcohol content and are consumed by themselves or in combination with non-alcoholic liquids of various flavors in what are called mixed drinks.
Alcohol is controversial because its use has been linked to various health issues, including liver disease. There is evidence that when used in moderation, some alcohols, such as wine, have some health benefits. The alcohol industry generally promotes these benefits while using its vast profits to fund a worldwide advertising program. Some religious people and groups consider the drunkenness that results from excessive alcohol use to be immoral. These groups have sponsored prohibition measures, such as the constitutional amendment that outlawed alcohol in the United States from 1920 to 1933.
The alcohol industry uses its enormous advertising budget to create an atmosphere of fun, athletics and sexual success around its products. It ignores or downplays the negative effects of alcohol, such as alcoholism, an addiction that affects 140 million people globally. Alcohol use also slows reflexes and reaction time, which can be deadly when combined with motor vehicle use.