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A not-so-sobering look at Pennsylvania’s liquor laws – Drexel News Blog

Pennsylvania State Capitol building in Harrisburg

Current liquor laws in Pennsylvania are controversial because consumers cannot buy beer, wine, and liquor in the same place. That said, while Commonwealth laws may be inconvenient for some, the idea of ​​adding inconvenience can help public health, according to new data from researchers at the Urban Health Collaborative at Drexel’s Dornsife School of Public Health. , recently published in the journal Drug treatment, prevention and policy.

In the study, researchers looked at the effect of Acts 39 and 166 coming into force in the Commonwealth in 2016 – which for the first time allowed many large grocery stores to sell beer and some wine. They found that Philadelphians living near these grocery stores drank more alcohol than those living farther away.

“When alcohol is less available, people may drink less and experience fewer alcohol-related health risks,” said study lead author Amy Auchincloss, PhD, associate professor at Dornsife. School of Public Health. “Even moderate alcohol consumption can have negative health effects, including mental health problems, injuries, increased risk of cancer, liver disease and high blood pressure.”

The team used alcohol outlet data and telephone surveys collected from 2016 to 2018 from adult residents of Philadelphia and surrounding areas and compared alcohol consumption in Philadelphia to New Jersey and New Jersey counties. Delaware who have allowed the private sale of liquor and beer at the same location for years. They analyzed data from 772 residents and found that higher outlet density — a number of places someone can buy alcohol within a mile of participants’ residences — was associated consumption of 34% more drinks per week and living further away from a point of sale. associated with lower alcohol consumption.

When they looked at year-over-year changes in the number of places that sold alcohol, residents who had access to more outlets increased their drinking days per week and had more drinks while drinking, for example. compared to residents who lived in areas where there was no increase in locations. to buy alcohol. The Drexel News blog took to Auchincloss to see what the takeaways are as the weather warms and more people drink socially.

Although living near an alcohol outlet was associated with an increase in the number of drinking days and number of drinks, you found no association between location and excessive consumption of alcohol. Did that surprise you?

ANS: Yes, it was an interesting discovery. Consistent with standard measurement practices, we defined binge drinking as drinking a large volume of alcohol on a single occasion at least once in the past 30 days (where the large volume was >= 5 glasses for men and >= 4 glasses for women). Drinking this way can pose serious health and safety risks, including car accidents, drunk driving arrests, sexual assaults, and other serious injuries. But binge drinking may be less sensitive to the presence of an alcohol outlet nearby. We believe that our results may be explained by the fact that, in many populations, binge drinking occurs once a week or a few times a month, whereas habitual low-volume drinking (such as one drink a day) may be further influenced by alcohol consumption. points of sale every day near his home.

The findings follow previous studies that found living close to an alcohol outlet was associated with increased sales. Why is it useful to look at consumption in addition to sales?

ANS: Data on alcohol sales are very useful in identifying general consumer trends in alcohol purchases and the types of alcohol purchased. However, sales data does not provide details on the frequency and volume of alcohol actually consumed by an individual or on the evolution of individual consumption – for this we need data at the individual level.

People have debated Pennsylvania liquor laws for many years, having state-run liquor stores, for example. What role should the Commonwealth play in regulating sales of beer, wine and liquor while taking public health into account?

ANS: As public health researchers, we are well aware of the harmful effects of alcohol. In order to mitigate harm, public health advocates generally support restricting alcohol sales, including maintaining state monopolies on alcohol sales. Monopolies can quite easily set limits on hours of sale, outlets, and minimum prices; while private companies are more likely to push for greater availability and encourage alcohol purchases through pricing and marketing.

The article mentions the importance of studying the associations between alcohol access and alcohol consumption in various business and socio-cultural contexts. Since we are in University City – a university setting – how might your study inform access to alcohol in our community?

ANS: Over the past few years, there have been dramatic changes in the availability of alcohol in the University Town area. Now that grocery stores are permitted to sell beer and wine, alcohol is available for retail purchase within walking distance of our campus and these stores market alcohol as they would any other beverage they are trying to sell. It is reasonable to expect that this has increased alcohol consumption among our students – and possibly even staff and faculty. And the increased access to campus-side retail businesses adds to campus restaurants that already sell alcohol for on-site consumption, like the Landmark Americana sports bar that shares the block with the gymnasium.

The team geocoded data from liquor outlets to count how many are within a kilometer of a participant’s address. Why did you choose this more precise way of measuring this using postal codes or census tracts, as previous studies have done?

ANS: Many studies do not have access to actual addresses, so they attribute exposure to alcohol outlets using postal code or census tract. We were fortunate to have the home addresses and the addresses of the alcohol outlets of the survey participants. We therefore used geographic information system software to precisely assign each participant’s exposure to alcohol outlets near their home. This measurement error reduced and likely improved our ability to detect an association with alcohol consumption.

The document highlights a general trend towards privatization of alcohol sales leading to more places to buy alcohol, more money spent on alcohol advertising and more alcohol consumed. How can public health experts respond to this trend and give the general public the information needed to make informed choices?

ANS: On an individual level, an important first step is to educate ourselves about the harms of alcohol, how to assess alcohol use problems and where to get help. There are many great resources out there.

Major public health strategies will continue to use laws, policies and programs to regulate the commercial and public availability of alcohol. In our community, university retail services and student public health advocates could partner and work to remove or limit the advertising and availability of alcohol products on or near campus. As with tobacco, protecting the health of a community will mean prioritizing health over income from alcohol. At the individual level, an important first step is to educate ourselves about the harms of alcohol, how to assess alcohol use problems, and where to get help. There are many great resources out there. Those looking for more information may be interested in this interactive self-test to measure one’s own alcohol consumption, information on college drinking, Drexel’s drinking policies and the office of consulting and health services from Drexel.

I also urge consumers to increase their skepticism of the alcohol industry and recognize that all discounts and promotions and increased access are primarily aimed at increasing industry sales and that these initiatives can have a negative impact on consumer health.

Media interested in speaking with Auchinclos should contact Greg Richter, News Manager, at [email protected] or 215-895-2614.