Alcohol Policies in the United States

Highlights from the 50 States

Each year in the United States, hundreds of thousands of injuries, illnesses, and deaths and billions of dollars in social costs can be connected to alcohol use (NIAAA, 1997; 2000; Rice, 1999). It is essential to consider how policies that affect alcohol production, distribution, taxation and consumption can be effective tools for diminishing the negative impacts of alcohol use. "Alcohol Policies in the United States: Highlights from the 50 States," prepared by the Alcohol Epidemiology Program at the University of Minnesota's School of Public Health, examines patterns and trends of selected state alcohol policies from 1968 to 2000. These policies fall into four main groups of alcohol law including distribution systems, purchase and sales, taxation, and drinking and driving. In general, the information collected indicated numerous changes over time in state alcohol policies, a lowering of general and youth blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limits, and implementation of alcohol server training laws. Although research shows fewer traffic crashes and liver cirrhosis fatalities, alcohol-related problem rates are still disturbingly high. The report suggests additional changes in alcohol policies in order to further reduce alcohol-related problems and presents research toward these changes that examines population-wide prevention approaches including: reducing sales of alcohol to underage drinkers and intoxicated persons, increasing penalties for drinking and driving, and reducing overall alcohol consumption levels. This study used data on state alcohol laws from primary legal sources including: state session laws, codified statutes, case law, and regulatory law. Additional information was gathered from research articles, law review articles, technical reports and reports of trade associations and advocacy groups.