Academic journal article Contemporary Drug Problems

Alcohol Policy Opinions in the United States over a 15-Year Period of Dynamic per Capita Consumption Changes: Implications for Today's Public Health Practice

Academic journal article Contemporary Drug Problems

Alcohol Policy Opinions in the United States over a 15-Year Period of Dynamic per Capita Consumption Changes: Implications for Today's Public Health Practice

Article excerpt

In the United States, public opinion on alcohol policies has received only intermittent attention since the 1990s (Greenfield, Johnson & Giesbrecht 2004b; Wagenaar & Streff 1990). The need for more research on the role of public opinion in alcohol policy development has been identified (Greenfield 1994) because public support for a policy may make its enactment more politically viable and help sustain a policy once enacted (Room, Graves, Giesbrecht & Greenfield 1995). Although they are not likely to determine which policies will be established, public opinions may help legitimate political courses of action (Leedham 1987). Additionally, gaps are quite commonly seen between evidence-based alcohol policies (Babor, Caetano, Casswell, Edwards, Giesbrecht, Graham, et al. 2003) and public opinions regarding the same policies (Giesbrecht & Greenfield 2003). When this gap is large it may indicate the need for further educational efforts designed to improve people's understanding of policy rationales (Greenfield, Johnson & Giesbrecht 2004b).

The present analyses involve 14 survey items, of which 11 measures of alcohol-related policy opinions came from the 1989 Canadian National Alcohol and Other Drugs Survey (NADS) (Eliany, Giesbrecht, Nelson, Wellman & Wortley 1992) and were subsequently used in US national and Canadian provincial and national surveys. For example, these items were included in a series of US surveys from 1989 through 1994, the Impact of Alcoholic Beverage Warning Labels (WL) surveys. These cross-sectional national surveys were conducted by the Alcohol Research Group (ARG) in California. In this article we use the 1989 to 1994 WL surveys and two later surveys conducted by the ARG Center, the National Alcohol Surveys (NASs) conducted in 2000 and 2005. Earlier reports have concerned aspects of the WL policy-opinion data series (Greenfield 1997a; Greenfield, Johnson and Giesbrecht 2004b; Hilton and Kaskutas 1991; Kaskutas 1993; Room, Graves et al. 1995) and the 2000 NAS (Greenfield, Ye & Giesbrecht, 2007). Here we extend the series by adding data from the 2005 NAS, extending the series to 15 years. All included surveys (WL and NAS) were conducted by telephone. The latest two NAS surveys included three additional items, one mandating warnings on alcohol advertisements and two about policies designed to enhance alcohol treatment access: (1) Requiring that health insurance policies cover alcohol treatment and (2) Providing free alcohol treatment.

Given our focus on US policy opinions, for brevity we will not review policy-opinion research in other countries, but these have included Canada (Giesbrecht, Ialomiteanu, Room & Anglin 2001, Giesbrecht & Greenfield 1999), New Zealand (Casswell, Gilmore, Maguire & Ransom 1989), European and Scandinavian countries (Ahlström & Österberg 1992; Moskalewicz & Tigerstedt 1998) and Puerto Rico (Harwood, Bernât, Lenk, Vazquez & Wagenaar 2004). Such international results have been summarized elsewhere (Greenfield, Johnson & Giesbrecht 2004b). A previous article (Greenfield, Ye & Giesbrecht 2007; and also see Greenfield, Johnson & Giesbrecht 2004b) reviews a number of prior attempts to classify or factor analyze alcohol policy items or scales (Giesbrecht & Greenfield 1999; Latimer, Harwood, Newcomb & Wagenaar 2003; Wagenaar, Harwood, Toomey, Denk & Zander 2000), noting that results have varied greatly based on the number and type of items and their wording. One rational classification by Giesbrecht & Greenfield (1999), also used by Room, Graves and colleagues (1995), divided the 11 policy items included here into three groups of policy types: (1) Interventions (including increasing treatment, prevention and server intervention programs), (2) Promotion controls/counterpromotions (including beverage warning labels, TV alcohol advertising bans, government counter-advertising and banning alcohol sponsorship of sports and cultural events) and (3) Access controls (decreasing hours of sale; raising the minimum drinking age, or MDA-already at 21 in the United States; not allowing alcohol to be sold in corner stores; increasing alcohol taxes). …

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