Ineffective State Alcohol Bills Popular in the U.S.

October 28, 2014

A new study by University of Minnesota and Boston University researchers indicates that a majority of recently enacted U.S. state laws are politically popular, yet ineffective to address excessive drinking and alcohol-impaired driving.

Such laws, including requiring ignition interlocks for repeat DUI offenders and setting a minimum age for those selling and serving alcohol, are typically targeted at specific groups. They are favored by the alcohol industry because they don't significantly impact alcohol sales, and direct the blame for alcohol-related harm to individual drinkers rather than the alcohol industry itself.

The study found that, in large part because of the alcohol industry's lobbying clout, laws that enact evidence-based policies such as increased alcohol pricing, restrictions on alcohol advertising, and restrictions on alcohol access and availability are less likely to be proposed or passed. These policies target the population as a whole rather than specific groups, and have been deemed effective through a preponderance of peer-reviewed research.

The study's authors also note the dire consequences arising from the political inability to enact effective alcohol prevention policies: 88,000 deaths each year in the U.S., and $223.5 billion in economic harm.