Abstract: Are City-Level Alcohol Policies Related to Youth Drinking? Examining Drinking Contexts and Youth Age (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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Are City-Level Alcohol Policies Related to Youth Drinking? Examining Drinking Contexts and Youth Age

Wednesday, January 20, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Jennifer Price Wolf, PhD, Associate Research Scientist, Prevention Research Center, Berkeley
Grisel Garcia-Ramirez, PhD, Research Associate, Prevention Research Center
Sabrina Islam, PhD, Research Associate II, Prevention Research Center
M.J. Paschall, PhD, Senior Research Scientist, Prevention Research Center
Sharon Lipperman-Kreda, PhD
Introduction: Underage drinking continues to be a significant problem in the United States, particularly in private settings such as homes. Policymakers have taken a variety of approaches to combatting youth drinking, include instituting social host (SH) laws, which aim to hold adults criminally and/or civilly liable for youth drinking on their property, and other law enforcement operations such as “party patrols.” However, there has been little evaluation to examine whether these policies are related to underage drinking, both in the private settings that they were designed to impact as well as in other contexts where youth drink. In addition, little is known about whether these policies may differentially impact youth at different ages. We investigated whether these initiatives are related to youth drinking and related problems in private (i.e., home or someone else’s home) and non-private settings (i.e. restaurants, bars, outdoor places, music clubs) as well as whether these relationships differed by youth age.

Methods: We used survey data obtained from 811 youth who drank alcohol at least once in the past year (M age 18.3 years old) in 24 mid-sized California cities. We obtained data about demographics, past year drinking, and drinking in specific contexts. We examined two city-level policies, SH laws and party patrols. SH laws were rated for comprehensiveness and stringency, while party patrol data reflected the number of law enforcement operations designed to reduce underage house parties in each city during the past year. Mixed effects multilevel negative binomial regression and logistic regression models were used to examine associations of policies and the number of times youth drank alcohol, had 5+ drinks, or had any alcohol-related problems in the past year at each context, as well as two-way interactions between policies and age (17 and younger vs. 18 and older).

Results: Controlling for youth demographics, more comprehensive local SH policies were positively associated with frequency of drinking at music venues (IRR=1.11, p<.05), frequency of drinking 5+ drinks at music venues (IRR=1.28, p<.05) and restaurants (IRR=1.52, p<0.05), and problems related to drinking at restaurants (OR=1.24, p<.05). There were no main effects for party patrols. There were two significant interaction effects. Younger youth who lived in cities with more comprehensive SH laws drank 5+ drinks in their own home less frequently. Finally, younger youth who lived in cities with more party patrol enforcement had higher odds of problems related to drinking outside in the past year.

Conclusions: Our study provides initial evidence that city-level alcohol policies are associated with youth drinking in different contexts. Cities with comprehensive social host laws may have more frequent youth drinking in some non-private contexts not targeted by these ordinances. In addition, our study suggests that such policies may be more impactful for younger youth. Youth drinking could be displaced to public contexts in the face of policies targeting only private settings. Our findings suggest a need for policies that address the multiple contexts in which youth drink in order to prevent underage drinking and associated problems.