Retail alcohol sale privatization

Evidence Rating  
Evidence rating: Evidence of Ineffectiveness

Strategies with this rating are not good investments. These strategies have been tested in many robust studies with consistently negative and sometimes harmful results.


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Health Factors  
Decision Makers
Date last updated

Privatization of retail alcohol sales occurs when government control over sales is repealed, allowing commercial retailers to sell alcoholic beverages. Privatization generally applies only to off-premise outlets, such as liquor stores, and can occur at various levels of government1.

What does the research say about effectiveness?

There is strong evidence that privatization, repealing government control and allowing commercial retailing of alcoholic beverages, increases per capita alcohol consumption1, 2. Per capita alcohol consumption is a well-established proxy for excessive consumption1. Privatization is also associated with increases in alcohol-related mortality and health problems2.

A Pennsylvania-based study suggests that privatization of alcohol retail sales may increase alcohol outlet density3, which has also been shown to contribute to increased alcohol consumption1. A Washington-based study indicates increases in the number of alcohol outlets and assaults following privatization of wholesale distribution and retail sales of alcohol4.

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

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1 CG-Alcohol - The Guide to Community Preventive Services (The Community Guide). Excessive alcohol consumption.

2 Treno 2014 - Treno AJ, Marzell M, Gruenewald PJ, Holder H. A review of alcohol and other drug control policy research. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. 2014;75(Supplement 17):98-107.

3 Grubesic 2012 - Grubesic TH, Murray AT, Pridemore WA, et al. Alcohol beverage control, privatization and the geographic distribution of alcohol outlets. BMC Public Health. 2012;12:1015.

4 Tabb 2016 - Tabb LP, Ballester L, Grubesic TH. The spatio-temporal relationship between alcohol outlets and violence before and after privatization: A natural experiment, Seattle, Wa 2010-2013. Spatial and Spatio-temporal Epidemiology. 2016;19:115-124.