Strong state alcohol control policies make a difference in efforts to help
prevent binge drinking, a new study finds.
Binge drinking generally defined as having more than four to five alcoholic
drinks in a two-hour period is responsible for more than half of the 80 000
alcohol-related deaths in the United States each year.
"If alcohol policies were a newly discovered gene, pill or vaccine,
we'd be investing billions of dollars to bring them to market," study
senior author Dr Tim Naimi, an associate professor of medicine at Boston
University Schools of Medicine and attending physician at Boston Medical Centre
(BMC), said in a BMC news release.
Naimi and his colleagues gave scores to states based on their implementation
of 29 alcohol control policies. States with higher policy scores were
one-fourth as likely as those with lower scores to have binge drinking rates in
the top 25% of states.
This was true even after the researchers accounted for a variety of factors
associated with alcohol consumption, such as age, sex, race, income, geographic
region, urban-rural differences, and levels of police and alcohol enforcement
Alcohol policy scores varied by as much as threefold between states, the
investigators found. And nearly half of the states had less than 50% of the
maximum score in any particular year from 2000 to 2010. In addition, the study
authors noted, binge drinking rates were 33% higher in states in the bottom
quarter than those in the top quarter of policy scores.
The study is published in the current issue of the American Journal of
"Unfortunately, most states have not taken advantage of these policies
to help drinkers consume responsibly, and to protect innocent citizens from the
devastating second-hand effects and economic costs from excessive
drinking," Naimi said.
"The bottom line is that this study adds an important dimension to a
large body of research demonstrating that alcohol policies matter and matter
a great deal in reducing and preventing the fundamental building block of
alcohol-related problems," he concluded.
The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention has more about binge