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Pennsylvania’s restrictive liquor laws could be good for your health

beer being sold in a grocery store

February 11, 2022

Guest Post by: Amy Auchincloss, PhD, MPH and Mariana Lazo, MD, PhD

In Philadelphia, beer and wine are not sold at most retail stores and spirits are only sold at state-owned stores. Turns out, this may be a positive thing for residents' health. When alcohol is less available, people may drink less, and experience fewer health risks from alcohol. Even moderate alcohol consumption can have negative effects on health, including mental health problems, injury, increased cancer risk, liver disease, and higher blood pressure.

The alcohol and grocery industries have been pressuring Pennsylvania to loosen restrictions on retail sales of alcohol and in 2016 they were successful. Regulations were changed that phased in more alcohol retail licenses so that by 2022, many larger grocery stores sell beer and wine. It is likely that more licenses will continue to be made available.

Amy Auchincloss, PhD, and Mariana Lazo, MD, PhD, along with other colleagues at Drexel’s Urban Health Collaborative, wanted to take advantage of the 2016-changes in the alcohol regulatory environment in order to find out whether Philadelphians, living in neighborhoods with increased alcohol availability, consumed more alcohol. They used alcohol retail location data and survey data collected during 2016-2018 from Philadelphia residents and residents in areas surrounding Philadelphia. They found that higher outlet density was associated with more alcohol consumption and residing farther from an outlet was associated with less alcohol consumption. When they examined changes in the outlet density over time, exposure to more outlets was associated with increases in the number of drinking days per week and higher number of drinks when drinking, relative to no change in outlets.

Learn more here.