Impact and Evaluation of Alcohol Control Policies

When considering alcohol control policies, governments need to determine the right balance of interventions to ensure access for low-risk consumers while limiting the health, social and economic burdens that result from its use.

Alcohol Policies in U.S. and International Context

Countries and regions within countries vary in drinking patterns, demographics, economic development, disease-burden and cultural conditions. These variations support the tailoring of alcohol policies to address the particular circumstances faced by each country and region. However, there is evidence that specific regulations, such as higher tax rates, restrictions on alcohol availability, including hours, days and locations of sales and minimum legal drinking age, are effective policy interventions regardless of jurisdiction.

Balance Consumer Interests and Health and Safety Considerations

Identifying and applying best policy practices helps balance competing interests of industry, public health, government and consumers; however, determining the optimal set of policies for a specific jurisdiction is complicated. Governments must assess the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of policies to minimize, and potentially through taxation, mitigate the cost of alcohol-related social and health harms while also ensuring low-risk drinkers have fair and equitable access to alcohol.

Alcohol Control Policies and Public Opinion

There is a complex relationship between alcohol consumption, alcohol-related harms and public opinion on control measures. Public opinion provides some legitimacy for alcohol control policies and favorable or opposing opinions may either help to sustain policies or lead to them being rescinded. The United States shifted from primarily federal-based alcohol regulation to state-based regulation after the repeal of Federal Prohibition in 1933. Following that historic event, alcohol policies became a reflection of each state’s distinctive culture and characteristics. Yet, there is some evidence to suggest that support or opposition to alcohol policies appears to have been based on a misunderstanding of their impacts, resulting in some people changing their opinions after experiencing the policy change.