Campus alcohol bans

Evidence Rating  
Evidence rating: Insufficient Evidence

Strategies with this rating have limited research documenting effects. These strategies need further research, often with stronger designs, to confirm effects.

Health Factors  
Decision Makers
Date last updated

Campus alcohol bans at colleges and universities restrict consumption of alcohol in designated areas. Bans can restrict consumption of alcohol anywhere on campus or only in specific areas such as residence halls or other student housing.

What could this strategy improve?

Expected Benefits

Our evidence rating is based on the likelihood of achieving these outcomes:

  • Reduced excessive drinking

  • Reduced underage drinking

Potential Benefits

Our evidence rating is not based on these outcomes, but these benefits may also be possible:

  • Reduced sexual violence

What does the research say about effectiveness?

There is insufficient evidence to determine whether banning alcohol on college campuses reduces underage and excessive drinking. Available evidence suggests campus-wide bans may reduce heavy drinking in some cases1, 2, 3 and alcohol use overall4, but have no effect on mild or moderate drinking2. Banning both alcohol and cigarette use in substance-free student housing may decrease alcohol use5, but alcohol-free student housing alone appears not to reduce alcohol use4, 5. Alcohol and substance bans in student housing are associated with decreases in unwanted sexual advances, sexual assaults, and property damage5, 6. However, additional evidence is needed to confirm effects7, 8.

How could this strategy impact health disparities? This strategy is rated no impact on disparities likely.
Implementation Examples

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) provides a directory of alcohol policies from thousands of colleges and universities9. Mississippi State University, Oklahoma State University, and University of Missouri are examples of public universities with campus-wide bans on alcohol10, 11, 12.

Implementation Resources

NIAAA-College alcohol policies - National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). NIAAA college alcohol policies directory.

CollegeAIM - National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. CollegeAIM: Alcohol intervention matrix.


* Journal subscription may be required for access.

1 Wechsler 2001a - Wechsler H, Lee JE, Gledhill-Hoyt J, Nelson TF. Alcohol use and problems at colleges banning alcohol: Results of national survey. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. 2001;62(2):133-41.

2 Fuertes 2016 - Fuertes JN, Hoffman A. Alcohol consumption and abuse among college students: Alarming rates among the best and the brightest. College Student Journal. 2016;50(2):236-240.

3 Walter 2012 - Walter G, Kowalczyk J. The effectiveness of alcohol policies in 4-year public universities. Journal of Community Health. 2012;37(2):520-528.

4 Williams 2004 - Williams J, Liccardo R, Chaloupka FJ, Wechsler H. Alcohol and marijuana use among college students: Economic complements or substitutes? Health Economics. 2004;13(9):825-843.

5 Wechsler 2001b - Wechsler H, Lee JE, Nelson TF, Lee H. Drinking levels, alcohol problems and secondhand effects in substance-free college residences: Results of a national study. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. 2001;62(1):23-31.

6 Wechsler 2002 - Wechsler H, Eun J, Drph L, et al. Underage college students’ drinking behavior, access to alcohol, and the influence of deterrence policies: Findings from the Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Study. Journal of American College Health. 2002;50(5):223-236.

7 NIAAA-Environmental strategies - National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). CollegeAIM: Environmental-level strategies.

8 Lippy 2016 - Lippy C, Degue S. Exploring alcohol policy approaches to prevent sexual violence perpetration. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse. 2016;17(1):26-42.

9 NIAAA-College alcohol policies - National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). NIAAA college alcohol policies directory.

10 MSU-Alcohol - Mississippi State University (MSU). Alcohol and illegal drugs.

11 OSU-Alcohol - Oklahoma State University (OSU). Do's and don'ts: Social life.

12 MU-Alcohol - University of Missouri (MU). Drug and alcohol policy.