The analyses of these policies relating to key provisions of alcohol beverage control laws reveal that there are considerable discrepancies in the ways in which States regulate the sale and consumption of alcohol in the United States. Key findings produced by the study include:

  • Four States prohibit the purchase of alcohol by a minor only if the minor makes a false statement or representation of age in order to purchase the alcohol.

  • Ten States allow minors to possess alcohol in any private location, including any private residence or venue.

  • Three States do not prohibit the furnishing of alcohol to intoxicated individuals.

  • Thirteen States require some type of mandatory Responsible Beverage Service, and 11 States provide incentives for retailers to participate. Three of the States with voluntary programs provide protection against license revocation for sales to minors or intoxicated persons if the licensee has participated in RBS training.

  • Twenty-two States have passed keg registration laws, but the requirements vary widely from the definition of what constitutes a keg to the type of purchaser information require.

  • Twenty-five States prohibit alcohol advertising that target minors.

Our analysis highlights the importance of understanding State laws that address underage consumption and drinking to intoxication. The presence or absence of a law may have a significant effect on the rate of alcohol-related problems in a State, particularly alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes. A law's wording, or the inclusion of an exception, may undercut the ability of law enforcement officials, regulatory agencies, and the courts to enforce it, thereby negating the law's intended effect. Research is needed to assess the impact of these laws and the variations across jurisdictions. When researchers engage in this work, it is important that they note the variations and loopholes in provisions to ensure accurate interpretation of results.

Our report provides a first, important step in assessing these State laws. There are several limitations that have already been noted. Most important, we do not include any analysis of local legislation, and we have not researched case law interpretations. These critical aspects of a comprehensive legal analysis are more appropriately accomplished on a State-by-State basis. Our goal is to provide an overview and introduction to the subject that can serve as an important starting point for researchers, policymakers, public health and law enforcement officials, and community organizations across the country.