Stateways March April 2018

StateWays is the only magazine exclusively covering the control state system within the beverage alcohol industry, with annual updates from liquor control commissions and alcohol control boards and yearly fiscal reporting from control jurisdictions

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StateWays | | March/April 2018 36 P ublic discussion about control states usually centers around money and effi ciency – are taxes too high or too low, should stores be open more hours, is privat- ization an option? But agencies aren't just merchants, they're also regulators charged with ensuring public health. "Public health as a concept in the control system means creating an environment where responsible alcohol consumption can happen," says Steve Schmidt, Senior VP of Public Policy and Communications at NABCA. Immediately after Prohibition ended, citizens in many states opted for government control to prevent a return to excess consumption. "They were concerned about the return of open saloons, and one way to avoid that is have the state take ownership and be involved as an operator," Schmidt says. "Yes, they would ensure taxes were collected. But ultimately it was really about public health and safety, to prevent the excesses that TYING RESEARCH AND REGULATIONS Pamela Erickson is the former Executive Director of the Oregon Li- quor Commission. Following her tenure, which ended in 2003, she worked at a nonprofi t that prevents underage consumption. After realizing how inaccessible research into alcohol regulations was at the time, she set out to create resources that explained regula- tions in simple terms. I spoke to Erickson about her work at Public Action Management and the available research regarding control systems and public health. StateWays: Is there enough research being done in this area, and is it looking at the right data points to determine the impact of regulations on public health? Pamela Erickson: I think researchers always struggle with inad- equate funding. There's more than there used to be, and we now know a fair amount about what works to curb alcohol-related problems. It's often diffi cult to fi nd the political will to adopt or strengthen measures, but we do know what works. What we lack is an understanding of how regulations work in combination. Typ- ically we've tested one regulation to see if it's effective, but in our complex system all these regulations work together. We don't know what happens when you remove one, or when you add several together. We're still learning about what's most effective. SW: Are there certain commonalities among the control states that are shown to be particularly effective? PE: After Prohibition the responsibility for alcohol regulation was given to the states, but they had no experience in that area. John D. Rock- erfeller sponsored a study of alcohol regulation around the world and created "Toward Liquor Control," a book that recommended the con- trol system. The experience during Prohibition was that profi t-making was the primary motive for alcohol sales, and it produced many prob- lems like heavy consumption and social disruption. The authors said that a license system wouldn't be able to cure those problems on its own. Since then, the original control system has been modifi ed dra- matically to fi t the unique characteristics of each state. In Oregon, we recognized in the mid-80's that it was expensive for state employees to run liquor stores, and in some cases it's better to have the private sector operate retail locations under a contract store system. SW: There's always a balancing act between increasing tax revenue and controlling consumption. Are control states today fi nding the right balance? PE: That's the central task for regulators, and it will always be a challenge. The private sector is very creative and always fi nding new ways to sell products. But what does the research say? There's a book called "Alcohol: No Ordinary Commidity," which basically follows the four P's of sales: product, price, promotion and place, and how they relate to alcohol control. led to Prohibition in the fi rst place." In the decades since those decisions were made, there's been a lot of re- search around the relationship between public health and safety and the control systems. One resource is the "Guide to Community Preventive Services," a sys- tematic review of decades of research put together by the Community Preventive Services Taskforce. "They're an independent panel of experts managed by the CDC, which assessed the veracity of alcohol-related research to make sure its methodology was sound and it met muster for scien- tifi c inquiry," Schmidt says. "Specifi cally, they detailed what happens in a private versus control system, and how to mea- sure the health and safety value of con- trol state policies." The report's conclusion was, "there is strong evidence that privatization of retail alcohol sales leads to increases in exces- sive alcohol consumption." Another resource is "Preventing Alco- hol-Related Problems," published by the American Public Health Association. It includes two chapters that speak about control states specifi cally, which include the following excerpts. A Public Health Partner by JEREMY NEDELKA PHOTO CREDIT: ©ISTOCK.COM/BET_NOIRE

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