Alcohol Laws Curb Heavy Drinking in Young Women


State laws that ban Sunday liquor sales and impose 0.05-0.08 blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limits for driving appear to curb heavy drinking in women aged 18-44 years.


  • Study included 13,555 women aged ≤ 44 years who participated in the National Alcohol Survey between 1984 and 2020.

  • Alcohol consumption data included past 12-month number of drinks, number of ≥ five-drink days, number of ≥ eight-drink days, and any symptoms of alcohol use disorder (AUD).

  • Analysis of state-level policies related to government control of liquor retail sales, heavy beer at gas stations, heavy beer at grocery stores, liquor at grocery stores, Sunday off-premise liquor sales, and BAC driving limits.


  • Laws that allow Sunday liquor sales were associated with 1.20 times as many drinks (95% CI, 1.01-1.42), 1.41 times as many ≥ five-drink days (95% CI, 1.08-1.85), and 1.91 times as many ≥ eight-drink days (95% CI, 1.28-2.83).

  • Laws that set BAC limits at 0.05-0.08 for driving were associated with 0.51 times fewer drinks (95% CI, 0.27-0.96), 0.28 times fewer days with ≥ five drinks (95% CI, 0.10-0.75), and 0.20 times fewer days with ≥ eight drinks (95% CI, 0.08-0.47).

  • Government control of liquor sales or sales at gas stations was not associated with number of drinks consumed or AUD symptoms.


“Policymakers and public health professionals who wish to reduce harms related to alcohol use during pregnancy through state-level policies should consider broader general population policies,” the authors write.


The study was conducted by Meenakshi S. Subbaraman, PhD, with Behavioral Health and Recovery Studies, Public Health Institute, Oakland, California. It was funded by National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and was published online September 20, 2023, in Alcohol Clinical and Experimental Research.


Study did not adjust for state-level store hours or include tax data for all states. The study lacked statistical power to examine potential relationships between policies and drinking among pregnant women specifically.


Subbaraman reports receiving funding from the National Alcoholic Beverage Control Association. A complete list of disclosures is available in the original article.

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