Former Executive Director, Advisory Council Member Mike Lashbrook Recognized with Life Service Award

November 10th 2021, 4:19pm

Michael Lashbrook, the Center for Alcohol Policy’s former executive director and advisory council member, was posthumously awarded the National Beer Wholesalers Association’s Life Service Award at their 84th Annual Convention and Trade Show October 3-6, 2021 in Las Vegas, NV. Mike passed away from cancer on September 4, 2021. Mike taught many of us a great deal about the alcohol industry, leadership, but most importantly, friendship. The Center for Alcohol Policy is stronger because of his tireless service and work to advance the Center’s mission. He will forever be on our minds and in our thoughts.

Mike grew up in upstate New York, and upon college graduation, moved to Washington, D.C. to begin his professional career, first interning for a U.S. Congressman and then working for 14 years at a large national organization, overseeing the legislative and political activities of a 16-state area, later on becoming a director and executive staff member. He moved to Michigan in March of 1989 to become President of the Michigan Beer and Wine Wholesalers Association.

After Mike retired in 2015, he chose to continue educating and advocating for responsible state-based alcohol regulation and public health and safety by serving as the Center for Alcohol Policy’s first executive director and had recently transitioned to a member of the Center’s Advisory Council. Mike was also recently been appointed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and was deeply honored to serve on the seven-member body of Michigan’s Natural Resources Commission.

Mike was a leader, a mentor and a friend. But above all else, he was a family man with a big heart who was happiest spending time with Debra, his wife of nearly 50 years, his children, grandchildren, three brothers and their families. An avid outdoorsman, he was especially passionate about fly fishing and always ready to cast his line in both fresh water and salt water destinations.

Mike did so much to build the Center for Alcohol Policy and his legacy lives on in all the important work the Center continues to do on behalf of responsible state-based alcohol regulation. Your support is crucial to expand that work. If you feel inclined to make a donation in honor of Mike, you can do so below.

14th Annual Alcohol Law and Policy Conference: Highlights from Chicago

September 15th 2021, 1:24pm

The Center for Alcohol Policy returned to the Windy City August 29-31, 2021, to host its 14th Annual Alcohol Law and Policy Conference (ALPC) with exceptional attendance and an array of highly rated sessions on topics ranging from the intricacies of alcohol regulations and product definitions to a presentation by Dr. David Jernigan on the regulation of cannabis and lessons learned from alcohol. 

The ALPC brings together a wide range of stakeholders in the alcohol policy arena to learn about and discuss trending issues and network with regulators, lawmakers, public health advocates, and industry representatives from all three tiers. This year’s hybrid event hosted over 170 in-person and virtual attendees from nearly 40 states. And despite the complexities of hosting a partially virtual experience while navigating public health protocols to ensure a safe environment for everyone in-person, feedback received from attendees was outstanding.

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul was the conference keynote speaker at Monday’s lunch and delivered a sincere appeal to all alcohol policy stakeholders to continue the work of supporting responsible alcohol regulation in our communities.

ALPC attendees also heard from pollster Kathryn Hahne of New Bridge Strategy on the results of the Center’s 2021 national sentiment survey on alcohol regulation which found strong, continuing support for state-based alcohol regulation and the three-tier system, despite changing behaviors during the pandemic.

As always, the impact of alcohol regulation on public health and safety was an important theme this year. One particularly exceptional panel focused on the onset of regulation relaxations in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Center also hosted two distinguished panels of legal experts: One revisited the Supreme Court decision in TWSRA V Thomas, the decision’s impact on state alcohol regulation, and the nearly 10 other litigation challenges currently winding their way through the court system. Another panel welcomed legal experts from both Ohio and Michigan to discuss landmark lawsuits involving the 21st Amendment Enforcement Act and the possibility of similar litigation in more states.

Finally, we appreciated hearing from TTB Deputy Administrator David Wulf who delivered an update on the bureau’s activities, provided insightful information, and answered many of our audiences’ lingering questions about the laws and regulations the agency enforces.

The 14th Annual ALPC was received remarkably well, and alcohol regulation and public health professionals were able to witness the unique value of the Center’s work. We trust that more will do the same in the years ahead!


Minnesota Alcohol Regulator Receives 9th Annual Leadership in Alcohol Regulation Award

August 31st 2021, 10:24am

The Center for Alcohol Policy is pleased to announce that Carla Cincotta, Director of the Alcohol and Gambling Division of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, is the recipient of the Ninth 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 yesterday evening during the Center’s 14th Annual Alcohol Law and Policy Conference.   

Within the Alcohol and Gambling Division, Director Cincotta has worked as a Special Agent, Senior Special Agent, and Special Agent in Charge, where she directed, coordinated and reviewed investigations to ensure proper regulation and enforcement of state and federal laws.

Before joining the division, Director Cincotta served as a police officer and investigator in the Stillwater Police Department for 10 years, at which she made it a priority to educate the alcohol industry about Minnesota’s liquor laws to ensure proper understanding and compliance, and where violations occurred, Carla aggressively enforced the law in a fair manner.

Over the past year and a half, Carla worked closely with industry members to minimize the economic effects of closures while protecting public health and safety by ensuring that the closure laws were uniformly observed. Carla effectively expanded the capability of the agency in a cost-effective manner and established productive relationships with industry members to ensure that Minnesota’s liquor laws are followed.

The Center could not be more honored to have presented this award to Director Cincotta. Please join us in congratulating her for her years of service and dedication to the industry and the public health and safety of all Americans.  

Report Highlights Open Container Laws as Important Countermeasure Against Drunk Driving, Raises Safety Questions in Response to Recent Alcohol-To-Go Legislation

August 27th 2021, 3:47pm

Today the Center for Alcohol  Policy released a new white paper outlining the legislative history of open container laws in America, how they act as an important countermeasure in the fight to prevent drunk driving, and also addresses the significant safety questions raised by recent alcohol-to-go legislation following the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The report was commissioned by the Center and authored by J.T. Griffin, principal at Griffin Strategies, LLC and former Chief Government Affairs Officer for Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). It follows the publication of the Center’s recent report on the legislative history of drunk driving in America also authored by Griffin.

Open container laws require alcohol beverages to be sealed and stored out of the passenger area in vehicles. Griffin’s latest report provide legislative background to these laws and explains how they serve as an essential “countermeasure available to discourage drunk driving.”

Griffin further discusses present challenges to these existing laws, specifically the onset of alcohol-to-go legislation in response to the dramatic dip in restaurant and bar sales in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“While efforts to allow alcohol-to-go predate COVID-19, these types of sales were presented as a practical way to help bars and restaurants during the pandemic,” said Griffin, “However, now that things are returning to normal, alcohol-to-go sales raise a host of challenging questions such as federal compliance with open container laws, challenges for law enforcement, and concerns about underage drinking.”

According to Griffin, alcohol-to-go raises substantial safety questions. “For over forty years, the U.S. has sent a strong ‘don’t drink and drive message’ to the public. Groups like MADD have helped educate the public on the dangers of drinking and driving, including passage of strong open container laws,” says Griffin, “As lawmakers consider these new laws, they must take into account the public health concerns that can occur from relaxing alcohol laws.”

It is very possible that alcohol-to-go legislation may confuse this messaging, as stated in the report. Although these laws provide that to-go cocktails, wine, or beer must be covered, the laws do not guarantee compliance with federal open container laws.  

“Time and again, Americans have made their opinion known: they want policymakers to prioritize public health and safety above increased convenience for acquiring alcohol – the Center has polled the public on this very topic for nearly a decade. Rather than rushing to make temporary privileges permanent, lawmakers ought to carefully weigh the long-term, far reaching public health impact that alcohol-to-go will have” said Jim Hall, former Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board and Center for Alcohol Policy Advisory Council member.

“There are a number of issues that should be thoughtfully considered before making any deregulatory privileges permanent such as time of sale, alcohol outlet density, underage sales, and the reduced capacity of police officers to enforce federal open container laws, just to name a few. And of course, we cannot forget the tremendous toll that drunk driving has taken on our communities. It’s possible that alcohol-to-go could cause a serious setback to our nation’s historic success in the fight against it,” said Hall.

White Paper Identifies Legislative Successes in Fight Against Drunk Driving, Finds Challenges Still Exist

August 12th 2021, 2:45pm

Today the Center for Alcohol Policy (the Center) released its latest report outlining the legislative history of drunk driving in America, progress made in the fight against it, and present and future challenges that still exist. The white paper was commissioned by the Center and authored by J.T. Griffin, principal of Griffin Strategies, LLC and former Chief Government Affairs Officer for Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).

“From BAC limits to the 21 minimum drinking age, the nation has made tremendous progress in reducing the harms of drunk driving, but despite these accomplishments, more needs to be done,” says Griffin. “If law enforcement continues to take the lead in this fight, and manufacturers embrace future safety system technologies, we could see the end of drunk driving.”

Griffin’s report focuses on laws and countermeasures that the federal government and state legislatures have enacted since 1980 to reduce drunk driving. These countermeasures include:

  • The 21 minimum drinking age
  • Open container laws
  • Keeping the alcohol industry regulated through a three-tiered system
  • A national .08 BAC per se limit
  • High visibility law enforcement
  • Ignition interlock systems

Griffin additionally discusses future technologies such as advanced alcohol detection technologies that could one day eliminate drunk driving. These passive systems could be ready and in the vehicle soon and would be able to detect impairment to stop drunk driving.

The report points out that while 28 percent of all alcohol-related deaths involve drunk driving, there has been a 38 percent drop in drunk driving deaths since 1982. But despite this success, “progress in reducing drunk driving deaths has stalled.” Drunk driving deaths have risen steadily since 2011. According to the report, “early estimates from 2020 predict a 9 percent increase over 2019 deaths, a clear indication that there is still much work to be done.”

“While it is encouraging that drunk driving has steadily decreased over the past 30 years, we all know that even one death caused by drunk driving is one too many,” said Jerry Oliver, Advisory Council member for the Center for Alcohol Policy. Oliver is also the former Detroit Chief of Police and Director of the Arizona Department of Liquor License and Control. “This report is an excellent primer that reminds us of the reasons we have our current laws surrounding drunk driving and encourages policymakers to continue crafting forward thinking legislation that will enable progress in the fight to eradicate drunk driving.”

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.

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Center for Alcohol Policy
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Phone: (703) 519-3090