Responsible Retailing Forum Releases Second Research Brief in Series on Underage Sales and Why They Occur

July 20th 2021, 1:47pm

Brad Krevor, director of the Responsible Retailing Forum (RRF), is releasing a series of research briefs based on “insights and learnings from 25 years of research in responsible retailing.” You can read brief #1 here

His second brief explores a new strategy for achieving compliance. Krevor outlines that the persistence of underage sales despite staff training, point-of-sales protocols, and supervisory practices has led to a new strategy to improve ID-checking that is equally effective with retail stores and on-premises serving establishments. You can read the full brief below.


Research Brief #2: How to improve compliance rates – Part 1

Context: The first Research Brief (Why Do Underage Sales Occur?) described why intensive efforts by large national chains to implement ambitious Responsible Retailing programs failed to eliminate underage sales:

“Retail work is highly repetitive, and workers’ minds wander. Underage sales occur for the same reason as many industrial accidents: momentary lapses in concentration. William Chandler, the former director of alcohol law enforcement in North Carolina, thus aptly defined underage alcohol sales as crimes of inattention.”

This should lead managers to consider how they can maintain staff awareness.

A New Strategy for Achieving Compliance: Starting in 2004, RRForum met periodically with large national chains (including Walgreens, CVS, Walmart, 7-Eleven, and petroleum marketers) who had entered Assurances of Voluntary Compliance (“AVC”) with 43 state Attorneys General. These AVC’s stipulated training, supervisory practices, and point-of-sales protocols intended to reduce underage sales of tobacco and other age-restricted products. They also required the chains to conduct periodic “mystery shops” to observe changes in staff ID-checking rates. When the AVC failed to improve ID-checking in the one chain (ExxonMobil) that RRForum was studying closely, we tested the idea of expanding the mystery shops from unreported observations intended only to gather research data into a real-time intervention for staff. Instead of leaving the store after an attempted purchase without revealing themselves, the mystery shoppers were instructed to provide on-the-spot feedback to the clerk and store manager. If the clerk asked for an ID, the mystery shopper would present a card explaining the purpose of the inspection and congratulating the clerk and store manager or owner-operator for correctly verifying age. When no ID was requested, the card warned that a similar failure in a law enforcement compliance check could expose the clerk and store to penalties under both store policies and state law. Since, we learned, the cards issued in a failed inspection were sometimes destroyed before the owner-operator could see them, we also sent a written report to the licensee.

RRForum tested this use of mystery shoppers to provide on-the-spot feedback to staff in Albuquerque, NM, Iowa City, IA, and Waltham, MA (home of Brandeis University, where RRForum was launched in 2003). In two sites, Iowa City and Waltham, mystery shopper feedback produced significant improvements in ID-checking rates. In Albuquerque, ID-checking began and remained consistently above 90%, a result of intensive alcohol law enforcement.

Validation of the Mystery Shopper model: This pilot project led to a Small Business Innovation Research award from the National Institutes of Health to further develop and validate mystery shops as a means of improving ID-checking. With the assistance of the state alcohol regulators in California, Massachusetts, Texas, and Wisconsin, RRForum identified eight pairs of demographically similar communities, two in each state, representing large and small cities, blue collar communities, and suburban communities. We identified fifteen+ on-premises and off-premises retailers in each community and conducted three baseline inspections. After establishing a baseline, one community (Early Intervention) licensees received six monthly mystery shops with on-the-spot feedback and written follow-up reports while its paired community (Delayed Intervention) served as a control. After six months, we ended the program in the Early Intervention community and conducted the program with the Delayed Intervention community. Results. ID-checking percentages rose significantly, from slightly over 80% at baseline to slightly over 90%, peaking at 94% at the end of the six months, in both Early Intervention and Delayed Intervention communities. Improvements were almost identical for off-premises and on-premises establishments.

Discussion: Mystery shops demonstrably produce and sustain improvements in staff ID-checking. The high ID-checking rates achieved in this study stand out particularly because licensees were randomly selected, had paid nothing for the mystery shop visits, and were shielded against consequences for improper staff conduct (although community ID-checking rates were disseminated to alcohol enforcement and regulatory agencies, individual results remained confidential).

Mystery shopper feedback allow licensees to monitor staff performance. Inspections are an occasion for managers to share the results with all staff and reinforce the importance of checking IDs. In our formative research, owner-operators and managers expressed strong support for mystery shopper reports. Passed inspections were seen as positive reinforcement of the licensee’s protocols for verifying age. Failed inspections often elicited surprise and dismay (“But we always check IDs!”), underscoring the most important insight for licensees: staff that are well trained in how and when to conduct an ID-check are nonetheless prone to lapses in attention.

Many owner-operators and managers saw the mystery shop as a valuable tool to help staff do their job correctly; for the research team, however, the mystery shop is a tool to help operators and managers do their job correctly, i.e., remind staff continually on the need to check IDs.

Take-away: The mystery shop is a proxy for a law enforcement compliance checks, providing feedback to licensees on ID-checking conduct without risk of negative outcomes for operators or staff. Periodic mystery shops achieve and sustain high ID-checking for all types of licensees and prepare those licensees to pass law enforcement compliance checks. Mystery shops remind staff that ID checking is being observed.

Mystery shop programs have been employed by diverse alcohol stakeholders. RRForum has conducted 21 Matters™, its mystery shop program, for individual retailers, chains, retail associations, and communities; and branded programs for brewers (MillerCoors Respect 21 ™ Responsible Retailing Program), distillers (Brown-Forman’s Responsible Retailing Initiative) and their distributors. in Montgomery County, MD, RRForum’s mystery shop program has been incorporated into a comprehensive compliance scheme in which licensees may receive either a
law enforcement compliance check or a mystery shop inspection.

To learn more about 21 Matters™, open this link. For the journal article on the effectiveness of mystery shops, open this link.

If you would like to receive additional Research Briefs in this series, and other RRForum news, register here.

About Responsible Retailing Forum

RRForum brings together public and private stakeholders—regulatory and enforcement agencies; attorneys general; public health agencies and advocates; retailers and their associations; distributors and producers; and researchers in order to – 

  • identify and promulgate Best Practices to prevent underage sales of age-restricted products; and
  • examine the impacts of RR policies from the diverse perspectives of these different stakeholders.

Responsible Retailing Forum Releases First Research Brief in Series on Insights from 25 Years

June 16th 2021, 1:47pm

Brad Krevor, director of the Responsible Retailing Forum (RRF), will be releasing a series of research briefs based on “insights and learnings from 25 years of research in responsible retailing.”

His first brief, which was released this week, addresses underage sales of alcohol, why they occur, and reviews a study conducted by researchers at Brandeis University that analyzed the implementation and effectiveness of an ExxonMobil Assurance of Voluntary Compliance (AVC), a responsible retailing program. The study revealed why underage sales persist despite intensive training and point-of-point sales protocols. You can read the full brief below.


Research Brief #1: Why do underage sales occur?

Context: In 2002, ExxonMobil executed an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance (AVC) with 43 state attorneys general who had engaged national retail chains found to have sold tobacco products to minors. The AVC committed ExxonMobil to sweeping changes in the training, supervision and point-of-sales practices and policies to prevent underage sales of alcohol and tobacco in its 950+ Company-Operated Retail Stores (“CORS”) across the country. An award from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation allowed researchers at Brandeis University to assess the implementation and effectiveness of the ExxonMobil AVC as a public health strategy to prevent underage access to age-restricted products.  The study design included comparisons between CORS that consistently passed compliance checks, and CORS with one or more recent violations, in hopes of identifying predictors of compliance and non-compliance with underage sales laws.

Surveys were conducted with 1,225 clerks and 284 managers in 460 Exxon and Mobil CORS, following the AVC trainings and policy changes. Survey responses revealed that staff training had been very effective. Clerks correctly identified, at rates well over 90%: the trigger age for an ID check; acceptable forms of IDs; and the consequences for selling to a minor (termination). Clerks expressed at similarly high rates that they personally took preventing underage sales seriously and that they consistently checked IDs. But clerks also expressed a belief that other clerks, store managers, and managers all the way up the corporate ladder shared the same concerns and commitment to preventing underage sales. The implementation of the AVC and the change in corporate culture were very, very impressive.

Unfortunately, ExxonMobil’s well-implemented, comprehensive underage sales prevention program had no impact upon age-verification rates! In the first inspection of all CORS following the AVC, ID-checking rate for all ExxonMobil CORS was 85.4% — higher than FDA compliance rates up until February 2003 (when the US Supreme Court halted the FDA program) but less than anticipated after the recent trainings and policy changes. But in each of the following three quarters, pass rates dropped even further (70.2%, 65.3%, 60.6%). Over the subsequent two years, pass rates fluctuated between 52% and 84.5%.

Why would well-trained staff and managers who professed strong support for preventing underage sales, and who knew that a lapse in ID-checking could lead to termination, still fail to check IDs so often? To examine this question, the research team compared the knowledge, attitude, and self-reported behavior of clerks in consistently compliant CORS with those in non-compliant CORS. What we learned, however, was that the knowledge, attitudes, and behavior of clerks were the same in all stores, regardless of ID-checking performance. There were no predictors of clerk compliance / non-compliance.

The researchers came to recognize that the underlying problem was INATTENTION. Retail work is highly repetitive, and workers’ minds wander. Underage sales occur for the same reason as many industrial accidents: momentary lapses in concentration. William Chandler, the former director of alcohol law enforcement in North Carolina, aptly defined underage alcohol sales as “crimes of inattention.”

If the underlying problem is inattention, one potential remedy would be continual reinforcement of ID-checking policies and protocols. To that point, the only noticeable difference between compliant and non-compliant CORS in the ExxonMobil study was that clerks in stores that passed all their inspections expressed that “my manager is always on my back to check IDs.”

The take-away is that thorough training and explicit policies for age-verification are necessary – but not sufficient. Managers need to reinforce age-verification continually. This is as true today as when the ExxonMobil study was conducted.

For a fuller discussion of the ExxonMobil study, click here. To read the Tobacco Control journal article on the application of Consumer Protection Authority in preventing underage sales, click here.

How mystery shopper programs emerged to counter the problem of inattention will be examined in Research Brief #2.

If you would like to receive additional Research Briefs in this series, and other RRForum news, register here.

About Responsible Retailing Forum

RRForum brings together public and private stakeholders—regulatory and enforcement agencies; attorneys general; public health agencies and advocates; retailers and their associations; distributors and producers; and researchers in order to – 

  • identify and promulgate Best Practices to prevent underage sales of age-restricted products; and
  • examine the impacts of RR policies from the diverse perspectives of these different stakeholders.

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul to Keynote 2021 ALPC

June 8th 2021, 11:51am

We are pleased to announce that the Honorable Kwame Raoul will keynote the Center’s 14th Annual Alcohol Law and Policy Conference taking place in Chicago, August 29-31, 2021. 

About Attorney General Raoul

A native of Chicago and the son of Haitian immigrants, Raoul brings a lifetime of legal and policy experience, advocacy and public service to the Office of the Attorney General. As the state’s chief legal and law enforcement officer, Attorney General Raoul has demonstrated a commitment to protecting Illinois residents by leading the “people’s law firm.” He has initiated efforts to provide aid to those impacted by violence, defend the rights of workers, and protect consumers from scams, especially throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

In particular, Raoul has continued championing the office’s efforts to protect Illinois consumers from counterfeit products. He has prioritized efforts to hold accountable industries that manufacture and sell products that threaten consumers’ health and safety – efforts that are critical in the alcohol beverage industry today. 

Prior to serving as Illinois’ 42nd Attorney General:

  • He served 14 years as a state senator for the state’s 13th Legislative District
  • Served as a prosecutor in the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office
  • Served as a senior staff attorney for the City Colleges of Chicago
  • Served as a partner at two national law firms

We are thrilled to have Attorney General Raoul speak at our 2021 conference, and we hope you’ll join us there!

Despite Changing Behaviors During Pandemic, America’s Attitude Remains the Same: The Alcohol Regulatory System Works and Americans Like It

April 15th 2021, 4:03pm

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – A new poll commissioned by the Center for Alcohol Policy on public sentiment toward alcohol regulation in the U.S. found that despite some changing behaviors during the COVID-19 pandemic, attitudes among adult Americans remain the same: the long-standing alcohol regulatory system in the U.S. works, and people like it.  Although many states have temporarily loosened some alcohol laws in response to the pandemic there is overwhelming consensus throughout the nation that alcohol is a product that needs to be regulated. In fact, a CAP survey record-high 85 percent of Americans are satisfied with the existing system for alcohol regulation in their respective states. 

Key findings from the Center’s survey show – as they have consistently in years past – that Americans want alcohol laws to prioritize public health and safety. The public strongly believes that alcohol-related problems are serious concerns, and that health and safety should be at the forefront when lawmakers consider any changes to alcohol regulations.

“Public satisfaction with responsible state alcohol regulation hit a CAP survey high this year. In spite of consumer shifts in behavior during the pandemic, most Americans still agree that alcohol is not like toilet paper or tin foil, and it needs to remain carefully regulated,” says Jim Hall, former Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). Hall is also an Advisory Council member for the Center for Alcohol Policy. “This year’s poll clearly shows that across the board, Americans want to keep their communities safe and agree lawmakers should prioritize public health and safety when they consider making these changes to alcohol laws permanent.”

Top line findings from the survey include:

  • Support remains overwhelming for individual state regulation of alcohol 
  • Most Americans reject the notion that alcohol is just like other consumer products 
  • 80 percent of respondents show support for states regulating through a three-tier system, which has been consistent over the past decade of the Center’s polling 
  • 71 percent of Americans are satisfied with the alcohol regulations in their state  
  • A majority agree that states should evaluate the impact of COVID-19 inspired deregulations before making them permanent. 

Click here to read the key findings memo by New Bridge Strategy. The Center has also produced a more detailed report for your use that you can download here.

The survey was conducted by New Bridge Strategy among 1,002 adults ages 21 and older throughout the nation [1].  The interviews were conducted online and distributed proportionally throughout the U.S. and are demographically representative of this age group. The survey was the latest look at core attitudes on several facets of alcohol regulation that have been tracked for more than a decade.

1. The confidence interval associated with this sample is +/-3.5% at the 95% confidence level; with varying confidence for population subgroups within the sample.

St. Louis Attorney Wins First Place in Center for Alcohol Policy Writing Competition

March 9th 2021, 10:15am

The Center for Alcohol Policy is pleased to announce that Monica Pechous, a Chicago-Kent College of Law graduate, has been named the winner of its 13th annual writing competition. Pechous graduated from Kent Law in December of 2020 and will start full-time as an intellectual property litigation associate at Tucker Ellis, LLP in St. Louis, MO later this year.

“The Center’s annual writing competition is an extremely valuable tool for education and advocacy… Because of my participation in the competition, I have a greater appreciation of the nuances of alcohol regulation. Alcohol regulation does not occur in a vacuum—it draws heavily on legal, social, and political factors. As such, I think understanding the intricacies of alcohol regulation is key to developing effective future policy.”

Monica Pechous, 1st Place Award Recipient, 13th Annual Writing Competition

The national writing competition is intended to foster debate, analysis, and examination of alcohol policy in the 21st Century. Last year’s topic addressed appropriate public health responses to the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic and asked respondents to consider the nation’s history of alcohol prohibition in their analyses.


Prohibition of alcohol was tried in 1920 but ultimately rejected by the United States.  Similarly, pure laissez-faire treatment of alcohol and the industry that profits from it has not been the policy of the federal or state governments. As the nation seeks the proper public health balance in response to COVID-19, can this nation’s alcohol history help shape and inform government health policies related to dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic?


“The COVID-19 pandemic provided participants with a unique opportunity to explore the history of alcohol regulation and Prohibition in America and relate it to the government’s response to the unparalleled events the country has faced throughout the past year,” says Center for Alcohol Policy Advisory Council member Jim Hall. “This year’s award recipients delivered exceptional research on the political environment surrounding 1920s Prohibition and provided a stimulating ‘lessons learned’ analysis of the public health crisis happening now.”

Pechous’ winning essay, “Beverages and Balance: Lessons in Alcohol Policy as Applied to the COVID-19 Pandemic”, provides an in-depth analysis and comparison of the “political contention” during American Prohibition to today’s COVID-19 public health crisis and argues that governments should look to the nation’s history of alcohol regulation when implementing public health polices in response to the pandemic.

“By effectively balancing federal and state interests, allowing limited incentive-based federal mandates, and promoting greater health literacy in the American people—all tenets of successful alcohol policy applicable to COVID-19 concerns—the United States will position itself to effectively slow the spread of COVID-19 in the months and years to come”, writes Pechous.


Second-Place: Adriel Barrett-Johnson

Adriel Barrett-Johnson, a senior consultant for international development at Deloitte in Washington, D.C., placed second with her essay, “Consuming Alcohol (History) May Cure COVID-19 (Policy): Expansion of the Principles of Alcohol Regulation in the COVID-19 Pandemic”. Barrett-Johnson acknowledges that alcohol has long been one of the few consumer products where a proper balance between social enjoyment and public harm is needed, but that in 2020 ”nearly all commercial enterprises joined alcohol in needing to balance these conflicting objectives as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

With this in mind, she explains that “state leaders setting pandemic policy should learn how to handle the tension between maximizing the economy and public health from alcohol regulators who have been doing this for over a century.”

Ms. Barrett-Johnson graduated from the University of Virginia where she studied economics and statistics, and she will soon start graduate school at UPenn Wharton, completing a joint MBA and MA in Latin American Studies.


Third-Place: Emily Seaton

Receiving third place for her essay, “Are the 2020s Truly “Unprecedented” times? How America’s Alcohol History Can Inform Government Health Policy During the COVID-19 Pandemic,” Emily Seaton, an attorney in North Carolina and a former United States District Court Clerk, addresses the topic similarly to Ms. Pechous and Ms. Barrett-Johnson. Seaton states that reinventing the wheel is unnecessary when considering appropriate public health policies to address the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“State regulation often proves more effective and more adaptable… [but] just as the federal government continues to nudge alcohol control in the United States, so too can it nudge compliance with COVID-19 recommendations from public health officials”, Seaton writes.

Ms. Seaton obtained her B.S. in Economics from Wofford College in 2016 and then her J.D. from the University of Georgia School of Law in 2019, where she served as Executive Editor of the Georgia Journal of International and Comparative Law.

Alabama Alcohol Regulator Receives 2020 Leadership in Alcohol Regulation Award

September 23rd 2020, 2:00pm

The Center for Alcohol Policy is pleased to announce that Summer Childers, Director of the Licensing and Compliance Division of the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, is the recipient of the Eighth Annual Leadership in Alcohol Regulation Award.  

The award, which recognizes a specific program, agency or person who oversees the alcohol industry and promotes public health and safety, was announced during the Center’s 13th Annual Alcohol Law and Policy Conference.  

Director Childers has served the State of Alabama for 10 years and has become an invaluable resource for the state and local governments, the alcohol industry, and anyone interested in alcohol regulation in the state of Alabama. Ms. Childers was chosen to receive this award because she has dutifully organized and implemented major structural changes within the Alabama ABC as well as served as lead on efforts to review and improve AL ABC Administrative Rules and Regulations. Director Childers is noted for her collaborative effort to achieve fairness and to ensure all voices are heard at the table when seeking solutions to problems.  

Moreover, Ms. Childers’ opinions and insights on proposed legislation are frequently sought after on account of her deep institutional knowledge of the industry and its governing laws. In Alabama ABC Administrator Mac Gipson’s words, “Dedication, perseverance, hard work, and integrity define Summer Childers.” 

“The Center works diligently to promote public health and safety through America’s state-based alcohol regulatory system and strives to educate regulators on the importance of collaborating with varied stakeholders to effectively regulate alcohol,” said Jerry Oliver, Center for Alcohol Policy Advisor and former Arizona regulator and police chief of Richmond, Pasadena, and Detroit. “The Center is proud to present its annual award to someone who is well-known for sharing those same values.” 

We ask that you help us celebrate Director Summer Childers for her dedication to the industry and public health and safety.   

Center releases new paper addressing Covid-19, recent alcohol de-regulations

June 9th 2020, 3:53pm

Today the Center for Alcohol Policy released a report confronting the wave of alcohol de-regulations around the country as a result of the Covid-19 public health emergency. 

The paper titled, “Crisis De-Regulations: Should They Stay or Should They Go?” was authored by Patrick Maroney, the former director of the Colorado Liquor Enforcement Division. Maroney additionally authored the Center’s “Fake Alcohol and E-Commerce” white paper that was released in February.

The report addresses the response by state government officials relaxing certain key alcohol regulations to relieve the financial burden experienced by on-premises retailers due to the spread of Covid-19, and cautions against making permanent these temporary changes. 

Maroney emphasizes that the virus, not state alcohol laws, caused the problems facing on-premise businesses. He notes that alcohol is still dangerous, which should be an important theme when considering the recovery of Covid-19. He additionally notes that although some economic interests may seek an overhaul to current alcohol laws amid the pandemic, the public health cost of such actions would be dire.

“As states begin the long road to recovery in the wake of Covid-19, I think it’s important to recall the words of Augustus: ‘festina lente’ or ‘make haste, slowly’” said Maroney. “Governments had to act quickly when the virus showed up on our doorsteps, but they must now thoughtfully consider the damaging effects that temporary changes to the time-tested laws that govern alcohol regulation will have if permanently codified.”

The paper concludes that although states had to react quickly at the onset of the pandemic, a cautious approach should be taken when contemplating permanent changes to current alcohol laws and regulations as states begin to recover.

“The Center is pleased to offer this white paper to the current discussion of where alcohol regulations are headed in the midst of a pandemic,” said Center for Alcohol Policy Advisory Jerry Oliver. “Patrick Maroney’s recommendations of ‘going slow’ and including all stakeholders such as law enforcement and alcohol regulators will be key to keeping strong the state’s ability to regulate alcohol.”

Center for Alcohol Policy Names Kelly Roberson Executive Director

June 8th 2020, 1:23pm

The Center for Alcohol Policy (the Center), recently appointed Kelly Roberson as its new executive director. Previously working on Capitol Hill and in the private sector, Roberson brings extensive knowledge and experience in policy and marketing.     

“We could not be more thrilled about Kelly’s appointment as executive director of the Center for Alcohol Policy,” said Bob Archer, chairman of the Center for Alcohol Policy and president and CEO of Blue Ridge Beverage Co. “Kelly’s expertise and proven leadership will be a true asset as we work to expand the reach of the Center’s important educational resources, programming and research.”

As executive director, Roberson will lead the organization’s efforts to educate policymakers, regulators and the public about responsible alcohol policy and regulation. Roberson will manage and oversee the day-to-day operations for the Center and provide leadership for sustained growth in fundraising and programming within the arena of alcohol regulation in the United States. Roberson will also serve as the spokesperson and public face of the Center.

“I am excited about the opportunity to lead the Center for Alcohol Policy,” Roberson said. “The Center is a critical voice in the debate about smart alcohol policy that supports communities and protects the public health and safety of consumers and non-consumers alike. I look forward to building upon the foundation laid by my predecessor and working with the Center’s advisory council, board and other stakeholders to take the foundation to new heights.”

Previously, Roberson served as policy advisor and communications director in the U.S. House of Representatives, leading communications on a varied portfolio of issues in the Western Caucus. Most recently, Roberson pioneered the role of National Director of Digital Communications for Conte Bicycle Group, one of the nation’s leading bicycle retailers. During this time, her passion for building strategic partnerships and relationships combined with her overhaul of the company’s digital presence paved the way for exponential growth in both sales and brand awareness.

“Recent events have made the need for education and research about alcohol policy more important than ever, and I look forward to working with Kelly to further the mission of the Center,” added Archer.

A native of Scottsdale, Arizona, Roberson graduated Summa Cum Laude from the Barrett Honors College at Arizona State University with a degree in Spanish Linguistics and International Business and Management.

April 21st 2020, 6:10pm

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
April 21, 2020

CONTACT:
Sarah Lamson
sarahl@centerforalcoholpolicy.org
(703) 519-3090 

Center for Alcohol Policy Statement on Sixth Circuit Ruling on Lebamoff v. Michigan

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Today the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled for the state of Michigan and reversed a district court decision that struck a law preventing out-of-state retailers from selling to Michigan consumers. An Indiana retailer seeking to sell wine to Michigan consumers claimed that the Michigan law is a violation of the dormant Commerce Clause. However, Michigan retailers are required to follow the state of Michigan’s alcohol laws, but Indiana retailers are not. The Center for Alcohol Policy filed an amicus brief in favor of the state of Michigan.

Today, Center for Alcohol Policy Advisor and former Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick Lynch released the following statement on the ruling:
 
“The Center for Alcohol Policy is gratified by the Sixth Circuit’s recognition and understanding of the history of alcohol policy in the United States such as outlined in the amicus brief submitted by the Center for Alcohol Policy and Michigan Alcohol Policy Promoting Health and Safety (MAP). It recognizes that economic efficiency is not the paramount goal of alcohol regulation, but that public health considerations are most important. As today’s opinion shows, reasonable regulations of the alcohol industry, like the Michigan law requiring alcohol sold by retailers to go through in-state wholesalers, are well within the power of state governments. The opinion correctly recognizes the essential role played by the three-tier system in promoting temperance and public safety. The opinion also correctly recognizes that individual states have the right to regulate alcohol differently, and that the three-tier system plays a critical role in promoting the rule of law in each of those states.”

###

The Center for Alcohol Policy is a 501c(3) organization whose mission is to educate policymakers, 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.

Loosening of State Regulations, Direct-to-Consumer Sales Increase Counterfeit Alcohol Risks

March 4th 2020, 10:58am

Center for Alcohol Policy Releases New White Paper Addressing Risks of Fake Alcohol in Interstate E-Commerce

(ALEXANDIRA, Va.) Today the Center for Alcohol Policy (the Center) released its newest report on the need for states to evaluate the risks of fake alcohol stemming from online or interstate direct-to-consumer (DTC) sales in the United States.

The white paper commissioned by the Center and authored by Patrick Maroney, the former top Colorado alcohol regulator, is a follow-up to two Center for Alcohol Policy-funded studies from 2014 and 2017, both authored by Robert Tobiassen, a former chief counsel at the U.S. Treasury Department’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.

“From my 33 years of experience in law enforcement and as former director of a state liquor regulatory agency, I understand the importance of America’s strong alcohol regulatory system and its relevancy to public health and safety,” says Maroney. “With the world of e-commerce now an everyday presence in consumers’ lives, this report provides a much-needed analysis on its influence in the alcohol marketplace and significant risks to public health and safety.”

While Tobiassen’s two studies focused on incidents of fake alcohol mostly in the United Kingdom (U.K.) and Ireland as compared to the United States (2014) and the U.K.’s newly regulated alcohol wholesaler system (2017), Maroney’s update discusses DTC sales through interstate e-commerce – specifically how this platform increases avenues for counterfeit products to enter the marketplace around the world.

Maroney points out that counterfeit or tainted alcohol “poses a far higher risk to public health and safety” than most other fake products found throughout the e-commerce marketplace. He also highlights how counterfeit alcohol harms the legitimate alcohol industry.

Since the U.S. three-tier regulatory system for the alcohol industry is designed to protect public health and safety and other interests, the U.S. has been fortunate to see few reported health issues or deaths attributed to tainted alcohol, unlike other countries such as IndiaMexico and Costa Rica. But if the current regulatory system in place is undone by expanding online DTC sales, Maroney warns that it would “increase the exposure of fake and counterfeit alcohol beverage products to the alcohol industry, specifically to the consumer.”

“The Center understands the need for sound research on alcohol regulations,” says Mike Lashbrook, the Center’s Executive Director. “At a time of significant disruption in how consumers purchase and receive alcohol, it is important for policy makers to assess the public health and safety risks to any proposed changes to alcohol regulations.”

The report additionally highlights current state laws that are used to combat fake alcohol and warns against efforts to circumvent these laws in desire for consumer convenience.  

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Center for Alcohol Policy
1101 King Street Ste 600-A Alexandria, VA 22314
Phone: (703) 519-3090 info@centerforalcoholpolicy.org