At Risk: Alcohol Regulation and Florida

By Dr. Kelli Criss

In this week’s blog, At Risk: Alcohol Regulation and Florida, we focus upon the current dangers facing alcohol laws in Florida.  We believe that alcohol should remain highly regulated. While the social acceptability of this substance has increased considerably, we urge caution on its broad availability and immediate access. 

Let’s consider studies about the link between alcohol abuse, lack of alcohol regulation, and social issues.  We’ll also address how recent moves by certain members of the Florida legislature to deregulate alcohol have significant public health consequences. Believe it or not, recently introduced legislation would totally deregulate Florida’s alcohol industry.  

 Drinking and Driving Deaths Increase 

Deaths attributed to drinking and driving increased between 2015 and 2016, after a long decline. Florida Faith and Freedom Coalition continues to support high visibility law enforcement presence, such as sobriety checkpoints and ignition interlock devices, to reduce drunk and drugged driving. Currently, every state across the nation has some type of ignition interlock law. 

 Domestic Violence, Homicide, and Adverse Childhood Events  

Some studies continue to show a strong correlation between drug and alcohol use, domestic violence, homicide, and adverse childhood events. It must be noted, however, the correlation between alcohol and many of these adverse life events does not necessarily reflect causation. Factors such as desire and intimidation and desire for control may play an equal or more important role in IPV—Intimate Partner Violence. 

 This does not mean, however, that alcohol can be absolved of blame.  Studies indicate that alcohol remains a risk factor for incidents such as IPV because it affects both physical and cognitive ability.  It may therefore contribute to IPV and other violent acts by causing a loss of self-control and lack of judgement.[1] 

Alcohol use is frequently associated with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), especially in the face of chronic traumatic experiences. It’s logical that perpetrators of domestic violence are the first people who come to mind when considering alcohol’s role in domestic violence; however, survivors of domestic violence face trauma as well.  Considering that trauma and alcohol use are associated, studies do suggest the importance of assessing trauma symptoms and motives for drinking in order to understand alcohol use in recent survivors of domestic violence.[2]  

Poorly Regulated Youth Access  

In addition to domestic violence concerns, studies demonstrate that increased youth access to alcohol is a growing danger. For example, a University of North Carolina School of Public Health study demonstrates that disappearing alcohol purchasing and shipping regulations have increased youth access to alcohol.[3]  According to the study, “Of the 100 orders placed by the underage buyers, 45% were successfully received; 28% were rejected as the result of age verification.  Most vendors (59%) used weak, if any, age verification at the point of the order, and of 45 successful orders, 23 (51%) used none.  Age verification delivery was inconsistently conducted and, when attempted, failed about half of the time.”[4] 

 A Call to Action  

The current alcohol regulatory regime has held industry members accountable for the ways they promote and sell their products for many years. Moreover, recent polling data indicates Floridians: 1) are overwhelmingly satisfied with their current access to alcohol and, yet, 2) feel concerned about the consequences of increased availability.[5] Floridians’ concerns are well-founded because there is a storm brewing in the legislature.   

Unfortunately, legislation that would decimate Florida’s alcohol regulations was filed recently by Florida State Representative Anthony Sabatini. His bill, HB 6017, totally deregulates the alcohol industry. We urge you to call Representative Sabatini’s offices in Tallahassee (850.717.5032) and Clermont (352.989.9100) to encourage that he withdraw this bad bill. 

[1] C.F. Gebara, C.P. Ferri, L. M. Lourenço, M. Vieira, F. M. Bhona, & A. R. Noto, (2015). Patterns of domestic violence and alcohol consumption among women and the effectiveness of a brief intervention in a household setting: a protocol study, BMC Women’s Health, Volume 15, Issue 78, September 2015. 

[2] D. Kaysen & T.M. Dillworth, Domestic violence and alcohol use: Trauma-related symptoms and motives for drinking, Journal of Addictive Behaviors, Volume 32, Issue 6, June 2007, Pages 1272-1283. 

[3] R.S. Williams & K. M. Ribisl, Internet alcohol sales to minors. Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine.  Volume 166, Issue 9, Pages 808–813. September 2012. 

[4] Ibid. 

[5] What Floridians Think About Alcohol, A public opinion survey conducted by New Bridge Strategy, January 2020. 

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