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Elder RW, Lawrence BA, Janes G, Brewer RD, Toomey TL, Hingson RW, Naimi TS, Wing SG, Fielding J. Transp. Res. Circular 2007; 2007(E-C123): 181-188.


(Copyright © 2007, U.S. National Academy of Sciences Transportation Research Board)






The deterrent approach to addressing alcohol-related problems is grounded in the theory that swift, certain, and severe punishment for an undesirable behavior will reduce its frequency. This approach has a long-standing and relatively successful history as the primary method of controlling alcohol-impaired driving but it has been underused as a tool for deterring retailer establishments from selling alcohol to minors. One likely result of this lax enforcement environment is that minors report that they can easily obtain alcohol from retail sources. These data are reinforced by studies that indicate that between 40% and 90% of retail outlets sell to underage buyers. In most U.S. states, laws against the sale of alcohol to minors can be enforced both by local law enforcement agencies and by alcohol beverage control (ABC) agencies. In practice, however, ABCs often lack sufficient resources to adequately fill their enforcement role, and local law enforcement agencies often lack training in enforcing underage drinking laws and devote their limited resources to other priorities. One important program that attempts to address these resource limitations is the federal Enforcement of Underage Drinking Laws program, which allocates $25 million in block grants to the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia to support enforcement of minimum legal drinking age (MLDA) laws, including laws against retail sales of alcohol to minors. Retailer compliance with MLDA laws is enforced by recruiting youthful looking ?decoys? to attempt to purchase alcohol without identification to prove that they are of legal age. These decoys may or may not actually be under 21; if they are over 21, however, they are generally judged to appear younger. If alcohol is sold to the decoy, the establishment is cited for its violation. Penalties may include criminal prosecution or fines and alcohol license sanctions administered by the ABC agency. Administrative sanctions generally increase in severity with each subsequent offense, and may range from an official warning to suspension or revocation of the retailers license. In this review, the authors evaluate the effects of programs that increased or intended to increase the frequency of retailer compliance checks in a community.

Language: en


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