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Increased Checks on Alcohol Sales Reduces Sales to Minors

Posted in Underage Drinking

Parents worry that their teenagers will drink. Experts advise parents to keep an open dialogue with their children, talking about what to do when alcohol is present at a social function and how to make wise decisions. Though peers can have a significant impact, parents can have an impact too.

Rehearsing what to do when they are given an opportunity to drink alcohol can prevent many teens from drinking, but what is most helpful is if the alcohol is not available at all. Many teens obtain alcohol from their parents’ liquor cabinets or from an older sibling, but in many cases, they are buying it themselves.

There is particular concern about teens initiating alcohol use at an early age. Those who begin drinking early extend their risk to alcohol-related consequences. Some of the risks are immediate, such as injury. Others can appear later in adulthood, such as certain cancers and liver disease.

The motivation to keep underage drinking at a minimum is clear. How to stop teens from drinking, however, is a complicated problem. But stopping alcohol from being sold to minors is a big part of the equation.

Recently, a study found that year-round compliance checks on liquor merchants resulted in a reduction in sales to minors. The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Florida College of Medicine, observed the sales of alcohol to minors at 942 outlets in 20 cities in the Midwest.

Led by Professor Alexander Wagenaar, the researchers discovered that when law-enforcement checks were installed at grocery, convenience and liquor stores, there was a 17 percent decrease in sales to minors.

The rates decreased with time. Two weeks after the compliance checks were initiated, there was a decline to 11 percent reduction in liquor sales and then to 3 percent after three months. There were similar patterns observed at restaurants and bars where the compliance checks were implemented.

The authors of the study explain that the patterns are expected with any type of enforcement. When a behavior is regulated, the problem is never solved by one instance of regulation. The regulation must be implemented at a rate in which the employees of a store believe that there is a reasonable chance of getting caught.

The study was conducted over five years, and it found that when enforcement was continuous, there was a much better chance that rates of sales to minors would decrease. They also found that continuous enforcement was a better strategy for reducing sales to minors than server training.

The study’s findings show that there is great promise for the involvement of law enforcement in reducing underage drinking.

While parents remain a significant deterrent to underage drinking by staying involved with their children’s decisions about alcohol consumption, they will be aided by the increased use of monitoring of liquor outlets. Keeping alcohol away from teenagers is the best way to keep them from drinking.