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Alcohol Availability

Key Issues:

Enforcement of Minimum Purchase Age and Other Laws

Raising Alcohol Taxes and Prices

Responsible Hospitality

Changing Conditions of Availability, Including Hours and Days of Sale

Community-Based Prevention Approaches

At many colleges and universities, alcohol is inexpensive and abundantly available to students both on- and off-campus. Students can easily obtain alcohol at keg parties, tailgating events, football games, and local bars, clubs, or liquor stores. The reinforced message is that drinking is an acceptable part of the campus environment. In such an environment, students will be more likely to engage in high-risk drinking.

Campuses, communities, and states should therefore work to limit alcohol availability both on- and off- campus. Setting limits requires creating and enforcing campus, local, and state policy.

Limiting Availability at the Campus and Local Levels
At the campus level, the administration can develop policy that establishes strict guidelines for alcohol use. Restricting the use of alcohol and prohibiting delivery or use of kegs or other common containers on campus reduces the presence of alcohol on campus. Some campuses develop outright bans of alcohol on campus, prohibiting all use at campus events and festivities.

Once policies have been developed, administrators should make efforts to enforce them and establish disciplinary sanctions. Disseminating guidelines for off-campus parties reinforces the college’s expectations and avoids transferring the problem off-campus.

Several policies are effective at reducing alcohol availability at both the campus and local levels. Requiring the use of registered and trained alcohol servers and instituting responsible server-training programs helps to regulate campus parties, bars, and sports arenas, as well as local bars, and clubs. This policy functions to ensure that illegal drinkers and those likely to become intoxicated are not served. Both the campus and local communities can prohibit alcohol use in public places, a measure that reduces scenarios in which students can readily obtain large quantities of alcohol. Limiting days or hours of alcohol sales, container size, and the number of servings per alcohol sale works well as a campus policy, and as a local ordinance or voluntary agreement.

The campus and local community can also work together to reduce and limit the number and concentration of alcohol outlets near campus. Research has shown that a high density of bars, liquor stores, and restaurants serving alcohol near campus increases incidence of high-risk drinking and alcohol-related problems on campus.

Limiting Availability at the State Level
At the state level, statewide coalitions can work to enact policies to reduce alcohol availability. Increasing the cost of alcohol sales licenses helps reduce outlet density, while increasing the state alcohol tax increases prices, making alcohol less available to students. The state can also restrict availability through keg registration laws that require the purchaser of a keg to register.

Once these policies have been established, clear and effective enforcement of them is critical to achieving a reduction in alcohol availability.

Examples of specific strategies

  • Prohibit delivery or use of kegs or other common containers on campus
  • Ban or restrict use of alcohol on campus
  • Disseminate guidelines for off-campus parties
  • Require use of registered and trained alcohol servers
  • Institute responsible server-training programs
  • Prohibit alcohol use in public places
  • Limit days or hours of alcohol sales
  • Limit container size for alcohol sales
  • Limit number of servings per alcohol sale
  • Limit number and concentration of alcohol outlets near campus
  • Increase costs of alcohol sales licenses
  • Increase state alcohol taxes
  • Require keg registration

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