States Should Maintain Tight Control Over Alcohol Licensing, Experts Say

By Staff Writer

Giving the private sector more control over the distribution of alcohol could increase the need for drug rehab centers and result in more alcohol-related fatalities, according to a new study published in the journal Addiction.

Researchers from the University of Victoria looked at the effects of the decision by British Columbia lawmakers to privatize the liquor market between 2003 and 2008. They found some troubling trends.

During this time period, the number of retail alcohol locations in the province increased by 40 percent. Furthermore, the number of alcohol-related fatalities increase 27.5 percent for everyone 1,000 liquor stores that were added.

Experts said that these findings should dissuade U.S. lawmakers from instituting similar policies that would give the private sector more leeway in opening new locations and sell more products.

Michele Simon, policy director at the alcohol industry watchdog group the Marin Institute, said that the findings of the study show what happens when private companies put profits ahead of the best interest of the public. She said that states should not cede control over licensing, as this may have a negative impact on the number of people who need substance abuse help each year.