Healthy Alcohol Marketplace Balancing public safety and business needs

2013 Issue Briefs Focus on Regulatory Issues

For the third year, the Campaign for a Healthy Alcohol Marketplace is pleased to offer Issue Briefs  – concise, easy-tounderstand summaries that address common alcohol regulatory issues.

Given the budget difficulties among state and local governments, alcohol is often a target for additional revenue. Some proposals would greatly increase alcohol availability. Others would allow aggressive sales practices that promote purchase in high volume at discounted prices. Deregulation advocates claim that longstanding policies designed to limit availability and prevent steep discounts are antiquated, ineffective and hurt consumers. In 2011, the state of Washington passed a ballot measure, written and sponsored by the Costco Corporation, that converted Washington’s control system for spirits to a license system and eliminated other regulations so that wine and spirits could be sold in a highly deregulated environment. While it will take a few years to fully assess the impact on revenue, public safety, and local business, some impacts are immediately apparent. Public health officials, citing credible research, advise against such deregulation. Alcohol regulations are designed to balance availability, price, and promotional practices. Our regulatory systems also provide cost-effective tax collection and protection from dangerous products. They work to curb problems with underage drinking, public disorder, and excessive consumption. Most alcohol regulatory systems aim to foster moderation in alcohol consumption. Ironically, Washington State’s deregulation initiative specifically deleted moderation as a goal! These briefs, designed for policymakers, media members and others, underscore the importance of comprehensive alcohol regulations that level the business playing field and, ultimately, help ensure public health and safety.

Here is a full rundown of Issue Briefs:

Issues relating to the history and purpose of alcohol regulation:

  1. Aren’t our alcohol regulations antiquated? Weren’t they designed to prevent organized crime and other problems ofProhibition?
  2. Why do we need regulations to balance our alcohol markets ystems?
  3. Since alcohol is a legal product, why can’t it be sold like orange juice or any other legal product?
  4. What are some real-world examples of what happened when alcohol was deregulated?

How our regulatory system works:

  1. What does a good alcohol regulatory system look like?
  2. Why are some states in the liquor business? Can’t a control state just convert to a license state and save money?
  3. Why are beer, wine and spirits regulated differently?
  4. What are the benefits of the three-tier system of alcohol control?
  5. Isn’t alcohol regulation bad for business? Shouldn’t we loosen alcohol regulations to help local business?

Individual system elements:

  1. Since the recession, all Americans expect good values, sowhat’s the problem with lower prices for alcohol?
  2. Why shouldn’t alcohol be more convenient for customers to buy? Shouldn’t those who drink exercise personal responsibility?
  3. What is the problem with allowing more stores to sell alcohol?
  4. Why shouldn’t we able to buy alcohol on Sundays, holidays, or any hour of the day or night?

Revenue and safety:

  1. Can’t we save taxpayers some money by eliminating theliquor cops and using local law enforcement or state policeinstead?
  2. Why don’t we have problems with fake alcohol or tax revenue loss?

These briefs are designed to stand alone and be used as educational tools. PDFs may be downloaded for use. Please contact Pamela S. Erickson, at, if you have questions or would like a customized version of a particular brief.


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Contact Pam Erickson at