Following a nationwide trend, the state of Michigan is on a path to change its regulatory structure for alcohol. As each change is presented, public health consequences and public costs need to be considered. Nationwide, excessive drinking was responsible for 223.5 billion dollars in economic loss in 2006. This amounts to $1.90 per drink.
In March 2013, I joined a statewide alliance of organizations led by Michigan Alcohol Policy for Health and Safety to advocate for the best interests of local communities. Alcohol regulation is critical for health and safety, and to contain public costs. Changes made should have an evidence basis suggesting the public interest is served.
Unfortunately, some regulatory changes suggested would do the opposite.
Senate Bill 247, referred to the House on December 4, 2014, makes one such change directly contradicted by public health research. It extends, in limited circumstances, hours of alcohol sales. Currently, alcohol sales in Michigan end at 2am. If SB 247 is passed, sales could continue to 4 am under certain conditions. SB 247 is expected to be voted on in the current legislative session ending this month.
Michigan legislators should consider specific research on the effects of this change. The Center for Disease Control’s Guide to Community Preventive Services is known as the gold standard for prevention evidence. Of the seven proven strategies to limit alcohol related harm, one strategy recommended by the CDC is to Maintain Limits on Hours of Sale.
When states or communities increase the number of hours and days when alcohol can be sold in bars, restaurants, and liquor stores, the result is more drinking and more harms from drinking, especially motor-vehicle crashes. The Community Guide studies found that people are more likely to experience harms from drinking too much, including motor-vehicle crashes, violence, assault and injuries, when national, state, and local policies remove previously banned alcohol sales on weekend days (usually Sundays) or when communities increase the hours that alcohol can be sold by 2 or more hours.
Given that longer bar hours are a proven hazard, SB 247 should be set aside. Michigan lawmakers should focus on regulatory reforms that protect the public interest and promote safety and well-being.
For more details on SB247, and for information about contacting your legislator, see the MAP SB247 fact sheet.