Based upon beer and liquor company advertising, you might imagine that the US booze industry primarily sells its products to suave, attractive 20-somethings on the beach. In fact, it primarily sells its products to alcoholics.

Wonkblog brings us a breakdown of US alcohol sales based upon data in "Paying the Tab," a new book by about alcohol and public policy by Phillip J. Cook. Cook breaks down alcohol consumption into deciles, and finds that the top 10% of heavy drinkers in America "account for well over half of the alcohol consumed in any given year." How much are they drinking?

The top 10 percent of American drinkers - 24 million adults over age 18 - consume, on average, 74 alcoholic drinks per week... Or, if you prefer, 10 drinks per day.

These people, who buy most of the booze sold in our nation, are the alcoholics. And indeed, the National Institute of Health says that about 7.2% of adults (including 10% of men) have an "alcohol use disorder."

It is instructing to keep in mind that every beer, liquor, and wine company, and all of their investors, have an extremely strong financial incentive for encouraging alcoholism, and an equally strong financial incentive for discouraging recovery from alcoholism. "Big Tobacco" has been slammed for decades because of a similar dynamic in their industry, but Big Booze seems to have escaped somehow.

[Photo: Flickr]