Environmental prevention and underage drinking
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Environmental Prevention and Underage Drinking. Kathryn Stewart Safety and Policy Analysis International and Prevention Research Center Lafayette, California MADD National Conference, September 2012. Age 21 Laws have been effective!. Effects of Age 21 Laws.

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Environmental Prevention and Underage Drinking

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Environmental Prevention and Underage Drinking

Kathryn Stewart

Safety and Policy Analysis International and Prevention Research Center

Lafayette, California

MADD National Conference, September 2012

Age 21 Laws have been effective!

Effects of Age 21 Laws

Reduction in alcohol consumption

Reduction in drinking driver fatal crashes

Reduction in alcohol-related homicides, suicides, unintentional injuries

Evidence of MLDA 21 Law Effectiveness

Drinking Drivers Over Age 21 involved in fatal crashes: the decrease since1982


Drinking Drivers Under Age 21 involved in fatal crashes: the decrease since1982


MLDA 21 accounted for much of the difference (Hedlund, et al., 2001)


FARS - sober drivers







Licensed drivers



FARS - alcohol



























Reduction in Impaired Driving since Drinking Age Raised in U.S.Drivers 20 and Younger

Percent of 15-16 Year Olds Reporting Drinking in the Past 30 Days

Percent of 15-16 Year Olds Reporting Intoxication in the Last 30 Days

Alcohol kills 4X more kids under 21 than all illegal drugs combined.

ALCOHOL: #1 Problem and Choice of Drug in the United States

  • “Each day, more than 7,000 kids in the United States under age 16 take their first drink”

  • (IOM Report, 2004)

Most kids drink to get drunk, consuming four to five drinks at one time.

(NIAAA, 2006)

Recent Attention: Surgeon General’s Call to Action

  • Alcohol is . . .

  • easy for youth to access

  • prominent in entertainment media

  • advertised in venues that reach youth disproportionately

  • cheaper than 30-40 years ago

  • ______________

  • Kids get access from adults in social and retail settings

Focus efforts on adults

and engage entire society

Reducing Underage Drinking: A Collective Responsibility

2003 Report to Congress

The Surgeon General’s Call to Action

To Prevent and Reduce Underage Drinking 2007

Underage Drinking in America


Underage Drinking is Not an Underage Problem

Youth usually obtain alcohol – either directly or indirectly – from adults. Efforts to reduce underage drinking, therefore, need to focus on adults and must engage the society at large.”Institute of Medicine, National Research Council of the National Academies (2003)

Environmental Prevention

Creating an environment in which it is harder to make the wrong choice and easier to make the right choice.

Environmental prevention removes focus from individual behavior and works to change the larger environment.


Focus on behavior change

Focus on the individual and alcohol problems

Focus on short term: program development


Focus on population level change

Focus on social, political, legal context of alcohol problems

Focus on long term: policy development

Prevention Strategies


Changing environmental contributors to alcohol problems will change individual behavior.

Essential Elements

Environmental Strategies


Effective and Efficient



Inherently Sustainable

Environmental Change Strategies

Changes community standards


Involves adult and youth participation

Involves partnership with enforcement

Addresses physical, social, political, legal, and economic factors

Environmental Approaches to Limitations On Underage Access

  • Enforce minimum age purchase laws: -aimed at retailers -aimed at adults

  • -aimed at youth

  • Strengthen minimum age purchase laws

  • Reducesocial availability

  • Reduce overall community availability of alcohol

Limitations on Access

Environmental Problems: Colleges

Each Year College Drinking Causes:

1,825 students deaths

599,000 unintentional injuries

696,000 assaults

-97,000 sexual assaults

3,360,000 students drive under the influence

(Hingson et al, 2009)

2nd hand effects by drinking peers (Wechsler et al, 2002)

31% met criteria for alcohol abuse (Knight et al, 2002)

$68 billion social cost for underage drinking (PIRE 2009)

Problems in College Environment

  • Too much free time (e.g., no classes on Fridays!)

  • Belief that underage and binge drinking is a normal part of college life

  • Alcohol is available and inexpensive

  • Alcohol is highly promoted to students

  • Laws and policies are inconsistently enforced

Safer California UniversitiesProjectIntegrated Intervention Strategies

  • Nuisance party enforcement operations for disruptive parties

  • Minor decoy operations to prevent sales of alcohol to minors

  • Driving-under-the-influence checkpoints

  • Social host ordinances that held hosts responsible for nuisance parties

  • Campus and local media coverage to maximize visibility


  • Likelihood of getting drunk at bars or restaurants much less.

  • Likelihood of getting drunk at off campus parties much less.

  • Overall likelihood of getting drunk at any location much less.

In addition…No Displacement

The Border Project

Preventing alcohol-related problems at the US/Mexico Border

The Problem

  • Mexico’s drinking age is 18

  • Some border towns provided plentiful, cheap sources of alcohol

  • Young people traveled to Mexico to drink

  • Beverage service not always “responsible”

The Problem

  • Mexico’s drinking age is 18

  • Some border towns provided plentiful, cheap sources of alcohol

  • Young people traveled to Mexico to drink

  • Beverage service not always “responsible”

  • Heavy drinking occurred

  • Sometimes resulted in problems, including impaired driving on the way home

The Implementation Strategy

  • The nature and scope of the problem were explained to groups and agencies on both sides of the border

  • Media advocacy brought the problem to the attention of the public through compelling news coverage

The Change Strategies

  • Earlier bar closings

  • Stepped up DUI enforcement efforts on the US side of the border

  • Highly publicized enforcement of laws against crossing by youth under 18

  • New restrictions on Marines from Camp Pendleton

The Results

  • Dramatic decline in number of nighttime crossings by young people

  • Reduction in nighttime crashes involving drivers under 18

  • 90% reduction in number of Marines driving back from the border

Reducing Youth Access to Alcohol in Oregon: Integrated Environmental Approaches

Reward and Reminder Program

Minor Decoy Operations

Shoulder Tap Operations

Party Patrols

Traffic Surveillance

Media Advocacy

Reward & Reminder

Community Outcomes

  • Reduced sales of alcohol to minors

  • Reduced drinking and binge drinking among high school students in communities with the most vigorous enforcement efforts

  • Changed community attitudes and culture


Communities can create environments that reduce alcohol related problems through:

  • Understanding the nature of the problems

  • Development of appropriate policies

  • Strategic use of law enforcement resources

  • Strategic use of community awareness

Important Lesson

  • Kids are creative about finding sources of alcohol

  • But. . . .

They don’t have to be creative

  • If they can just walk into a store and buy it.

“Mountain of Beer”

Focus on Enforcement

Partnership between law enforcement and the community

Compliance checks

  • Are the essential element in every community environmental strategy



  • Survey and Assessment Tools

    • http://www.udetc.org/surveyandcommunity.asp

  • Training on Environmental Strategies

    • http://www.udetc.org/Training.htm#Environmental

  • Publications

    • http://www.udetc.org/Publications.htm

  • Resources

    National Electronic Seminars

    • http://www.udetc.org/audioconfpast.asp

      Technical Assistance

  • http://www.udetc.org/TechnicalAssistance.htm

    Underage Drinking Enforcement Training Center

    • http://www.udetc.org

      Success Stories

    • http://www.udetc.org/SuccessStories.asp

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