Do Social Host Laws Decrease Underage Drinking?

social host laws, underage drinkingSocial host laws have been passed in many areas of the United States, but do these laws actually deter underage drinking? A new study shows that this may be the case. Social host laws hold any adults responsible when underage drinking occurs on the property of the adult. Teenage drinking parties are common in the USA and in some areas of Canada, and these activities place the underage drinkers and the rest of society at risk. The study results were published in the Journal Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. Researchers focused on a total of 50 communities in the state of California, 25 which have social host laws and 25 which do not. Communities which had strong laws on the books showed that these laws can be a deterrent, and teens who lived in areas with strong social host laws were not as likely to report underage drinking at local parties.

Social host laws can deter underage drinking by holding the property owner or host of a party responsible for any underage drinking that occurs on the property or during the event. Researchers do caution that the study findings do not necessarily show a direct effect when it comes to social host laws though. Prevention Research Center in Oakland senior research scientist and lead researcher on the study Mallie J. Paschall, Ph.D., explained “These findings are preliminary. We can’t say that social host laws definitely prevent kids from drinking at parties. Most kids get alcohol from social sources, not commercial ones. It does look like there is less-frequent drinking among teenagers in cities with stringent social host laws, even when other city and youth characteristics that are related to underage drinking are controlled for,. So these laws might be an effective strategy for reducing hazardous drinking.”

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