Thursday, April 7, 2011

Chipping away at strong alcohol regulations that discourage underage drinking

Alcohol sure seems to be a hot topic in the Washington legislature.  In addition to SB 5917 that I blogged about yesterday that would allow for sales of hard alcohol in some urban grocery stores, lawmakers are considering/passing other legislation that chip away at alcohol regulations.

Legislature says: Drink up!  (Seattle PI): The state Senate on Tuesday passed House Bill 1465, which modifies liquor laws to, among other things, allow people to purchase “growlers” of beer from beer and wine specialty shops. “Growlers” are containers people bring into a business to be filled right from the tap. The Senate also passed House Bill 1172, which would allow some beer and wine tasting at farmer’s markets. And the chamber passed House Bill 1227 , which allows restaurants to waive “corkage” fees, which customers pay to drink wine they bring in themselves.

Meanwhile, a new budget plan released by the House includes a proposal to privatize the wholesale distribution of liquor in the state, while retaining control of retail sales through liquor stores. 

From an underage drinking prevention standpoint, this is not good news.  Check out the Resource Brief that the University of Washington's Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute developed during last year's debate about privatizing alcohol sales.  Findings from multiple studies show that:

-- Perceived availability of alcohol increases the probability of underage purchases and consumption of alcohol.

-- College students who attend schools in states with four or more alcohol control laws are less likely to drink than students in states with fewer laws. 

-- The more stringent the alcohol laws, especially laws affecting availability and marketing, the less likely young people are to drink and the higher the age of first use. 

While none of the legislation would fully privatize or deregulate alcohol, they certainly chip away at laws that help keep alcohol out of the hands of minors.

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