Study: Expanding Alcohol Sales Could Increase Youth Drinking ; Analysis Shows Less Pronounced Effects on Adults

By Hart, Megan | The Topeka Capital-Journal, June 29, 2014 | Go to article overview

Study: Expanding Alcohol Sales Could Increase Youth Drinking ; Analysis Shows Less Pronounced Effects on Adults


Hart, Megan, The Topeka Capital-Journal


Expanding liquor sales to grocery and convenience stores probably wouldn't have much effect on adults in Kansas, but it could increase youth drinking and associated problems, according to an analysis by the Kansas Health Institute.

A proposal to expand sales stalled in the Legislature this year, as it has several times before, but recent history suggests it could be back for more hearings in 2015. Grocery and convenience stores currently can sell cereal malt beverages, which contain 3.2 percent alcohol or less.

The analysis looked at a substitute bill for House Bill 2556, which would phase in the expansion by 2024. It would keep a cap on the number of liquor licenses for off-premises sales, allowing convenience stores to sell full-strength beer and grocery stores to sell wine starting in 2019 -- but only if a liquor store in the same county transferred the license to them, and the recipient wasn't within one-half mile of another business with an off-premise license.

The license cap and geographic restrictions would come off in 2024, meaning establishments that hadn't sold liquor before could do so more easily. At that point, grocery and convenience stores likely could apply to sell beer, wine and spirits, the analysis said. The bill also would allow liquor stores to begin selling cigarettes and grocery items, including cocktail mixers.

The picture about whether alcohol consumption is likely to increase is blurry, but the report suggests a slight increase for adults, and with it a possible increase in sexually transmitted diseases and violent crimes, such as domestic violence and child abuse. Driving under the influence and related crashes would increase by a small amount, if they increased at all, for adults.

The effects of increased alcohol availability probably wouldn't be spread evenly, the report said. Low-income neighborhoods tend to have more establishments that sell alcohol, and also have higher rates of binge drinking among youth, on average.

The report predicted greater increases in drinking by youth, with a possible increases in traffic accidents and sexually transmitted diseases. Theft also might increase as people who are underage have easier access to alcoholic beverages they aren't old enough to buy, it said.

The Kansas Department of Transportation found an average of 27.9 percent of traffic fatalities in the state involved alcohol between 2003 and 2012. In Kansas, having more retailers who sold cereal malt beverages was associated with more alcohol-related traffic deaths, but having more liquor stores wasn't, for reasons that aren't entirely clear.

Sarah Hartsig, an analyst with KHI, said possible increases in arrests and accidents from drunken driving in adults are difficult to predict, because the data are mixed. …

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