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Policy Makers Attend Alcohol Summit

Utah liquor laws are effective at curbing underage drinking and overconsumption. That’s what researchers told policy makers Thursday at the 2012 Utah Legislative Alcohol Policy Summit in Provo. 

David Jernigan, Associate Professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and Director of the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth.  He said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization have determined reducing availability of alcohol, increasing the price and restricting marketing are the most effective tools for curbing alcohol-related problems.

“We don’t want an efficient, market –driven market for alcohol," Jernigan said. "If you have that market, you will have so much more alcohol consumption than is safe for a society.

Jernigan said Utah’s model has led to some of the lowest DUI and underage drinking rates in the country.
Republican State Senator John Valentine said that validates his belief that Utah is on the right track. Valentine Chairs the Business and Labor Senate Committee, which handles alcohol legislation.

“What he argued is this, states like Utah and Kansas, both of which have a state-controlled system and then have the three point two beers sold in the grocery stores have balanced the equation properly," Valentine said.

Last week, the Utah Attorney General’s office ruled bars and restaurants may offer drink specials. This came after the Utah Hospitality Association challenged a state law that Valentine sponsored, prohibiting such discounts.  Valentine said the law was in fact intended to prohibit drink specials and he is now considering whether or not to make changes to the policy in the upcoming legislative session.

Steve Gross is a spokesperson for the wine Industry.  He said higher prices and lack of availability are the wrong instruments for encouraging responsible consumption.

“The casual user is the person who’s probably more likely not to spend the extra dollar to get the bottle of wine, as is the person who has that problem," Gross said. "If the price goes up that’s the person who’s more likely to find a way to pay for it.”

While Valentine isn’t interested in making alcohol more accessible to the public, he said he is interested in loosening the license quota system. He’s working to allow a restaurant or hotel chain to obtain a single liquor license for multiple locations without having to wait for a license to come available.  

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