Underage Drinking, Prevention Efforts and Trade Practices Also Highlighted
DALLAS, TX – Enforcement of alcohol regulations and policies was a recurring theme during the Center for Alcohol Policy’s Ninth Annual Law and Policy Conference held at the Renaissance Dallas Hotel August 28 – 30 in Dallas, Texas. The conference brought together a diverse group of state and federal alcohol regulators, law enforcement, legislators, public health advocates and alcohol beverage industry representatives to review trends in the field of alcohol regulation and learn from best practices around the country.
Jim Hall, Center for Alcohol Policy advisor and former National Transportation Safety Board chairman, welcomed attendees and summarized the objectives of the conference saying, “Look around the room. There are regulators, legislators, federal health officials, public health interest groups, trade groups, law enforcement and industry members. We may not always agree on policy, but the fact that we are all under one roof having a civil debate is an accomplishment not only for the Center for Alcohol Policy but also for your leadership in your respective fields.”
The conference began with a presentation by staff of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the lead federal agency charged with coordinating the federal response to underage drinking. SAMHSA Chief of Staff Tom Coderre and Public Health Analyst Rob Vincent reviewed data, trends and prevention strategies to address this important public health priority. While progress has been made in this fight, especially with regard to episodic drinking by 12-17 year olds, the SAMHSA officials pointed out that progress seems to have stalled with the 18-20 age group.
During the question and answer portion of the session “Legislators and Regulators Working Together,” Jerry Oliver, a member of the Center’s Advisory Council and former regulator and chief of police, made a passionate plea to a panel of state regulators and legislators to provide the resources to properly staff and enforce the licensing and trade practice regulations that are so important to protect public safety. Oliver cited the past trends of budget cuts and staff reductions in alcohol regulatory agencies that have created a situation where a mere handful of alcohol enforcement agents are responsible for overseeing an entire state area and tens of thousands of licensees.
During the session “Trade Practices in the Headlines,” Shawn Walker, deputy chief for the Bureau of Law Enforcement of the Virginia Department of Alcohol Beverage Control, reviewed his agency’s recent efforts to increase trade practice enforcement in their state. Rather than a few well-publicized stings for those breaking trade practice rules, the Virginia initiative starts with an educational effort with all three tiers of the industry to review the market practice rules and notify the industry that the agency’s special investigations unit will soon begin a much more aggressive approach to enforcement of these important regulations. The goal is to achieve voluntary compliance through education.
The session “The Need for Greater Expertise in Alcohol Litigation” provided an annual update on alcohol litigation. Other important topics covered at the conference included intellectual property and alcohol law, international trade and alcohol and issues in private label alcohol.
The Center for Alcohol Policy is a 501c(3) organization whose mission is to educate policy makers, regulators and the public about alcohol, its uniqueness and regulation. By conducting sound and scientific-based research and implementing initiatives that will maintain the appropriate state-based regulation of alcohol, the Center promotes safe and responsible consumption, fights underage drinking and drunk driving and informs key entities about the effects of alcohol consumption. For more information, visit www.centerforalcoholpolicy.org or follow the Center on Twitter at www.twitter.com/AlcoholPolicy.