We regulate alcohol to protect innocent lives

We often hear the question, “Why does Utah regulate and restrict the ability to sell and purchase alcoholic drinks so much?” A practical answer to that question, based on empirical research and analysis, is because doing so is good for individuals, as well as for society more broadly, because it protects innocent people from alcohol-related problems.

That was the implication gathered last week from the consensus of expert researchers on the impact of alcohol regulation. Speaking at a conference in Provo, one researcher reported that “when the price of alcohol goes up by 10 percent, there’s a corresponding 2.2 percent decrease in alcohol related diseases.” Another researcher reported that “underage drinking, alcoholism, drunk driving, alcohol-enabled domestic violence, child neglect and crime can be reduced by raising the price on alcohol. With higher prices come reduced rates of alcohol abuse and improvements in public health and safety.”

One way to increase the cost of drinking is through taxes, but another is through proper regulation. Concerning such regulation, the researchers reported that states choosing to directly control alcohol distribution and sales, rather than simply regulating private-sector distribution of sales of alcohol, “have lower rates of drunk driving, underage drinking” and other overconsumption-related problems.

While for some, alcohol regulation is mainly an issue affecting their ability to make money and look good to tourists, for most Utahns it is about more than money. It is about protecting innocent lives from the social ills which alcohol consumption creates. Credible analysis of the research shows that heavy state regulation of alcohol distribution and sales, and especially direct control of those functions, is in reality the best protection against alcohol-related social problems – and protecting the innocent is worth losing some money over.