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Marketing Affects Binge Drinking Rates

College Outlets Target Students with Beer Promotions

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Updated September 16, 2003

Marketing of low-price, high-volume beer and liquor at on- and off-premise establishments was positively associated with the average total number of drinks students consumed, according to research by the Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Study.

In retail outlets, the average prices for 12-packs of beer and 24-packs of beer were $6.08 (ranging from $2.29 to $11.29) and $11.74 (ranging from $5.89 to $24.00) respectively. For 24-can cases of beer, the lower the price, the higher the college binge-drinking rate. There appeared to be no correlation between low average price and binge drinking for12-packs of beer. More than 60 percent of these retail outlets provided at least one type of beer promotion.

Among the bars, clubs, and restaurants surrounding college campuses, the prices for a single drink, pitcher, or "the largest volume" were significantly correlated with college binge drinking rates: the lower the average alcohol sale price among bars, clubs, and restaurants surrounding the college campus, the higher the college binge drinking rate. The presence of weekend beer specials was highly correlated with college binge drinking rates. Almost three quarters of on-premise establishments offered such weekend specials. Almost one half provided at least one type of beer promotion.

College student binge drinking, as defined by Wechsler and other public health researchers, is the consumption of five or more drinks in a row at least once in the past two weeks for men, and four or more drinks in a row for women. Research has shown that this style of binge drinking is associated with lower grades, vandalism, and physical and sexual violence.

The researchers conclude that efforts to reduce problems associated with college binge drinking have focused primarily on education and changes in student behavior. However, the results of this study suggest that the efforts to regulate marketing practices (e.g. sale prices, super-sized packaging, promotions, and exterior advertisements) may be important strategies.

"High volume, low-priced sales are an important factor in fueling destructive drinking practices," added Wechsler.

Laws Impact Collegiate Drinking

Comprehensive alcohol polices and their strong enforcement may help reduce drinking and driving among college students, according to the second article released today from the October issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. The study found that 3 of 10 students drove after drinking any amount of alcohol, and 1 of 10 drove after consuming more than five drinks. About one in four students rode with a driver who was high or drunk.

According to the study, "Drinking and driving behaviors are not distributed equally within the population of college students... Students who attend colleges in states that have more restrictions on underage drinking, high volume consumption, and sales of alcoholic beverages, and that devote more resources to enforcing drunk driving laws, report less drinking and driving." "State laws play a strong role in the level of drinking and driving at a college," said Wechsler. "This is often overlooked."

Part One: Prices Encourage Binge Drinking

  1. About.com
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  3. Alcoholism
  4. College Drinking
  5. Campus Prevention Efforts
  6. Marketing Affects Binge Drinking Rates

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