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Article Summary

Alcohol Prevention: Strategies That Work

Research and experience show that successful alcohol prevention programs should incorporate one or more of the following three science-based strategies:

Reduce the availability of alcohol

The most documented principle in alcohol use prevention is this: Make it harder for young people to get alcohol, and they will drink less. Communities can make alcohol less available by promoting responsible adult behavior and holding adults accountable when they provide alcohol to minors; by raising the price of beer, wine, and liquor; or by reducing the number of places where alcohol is sold or served.

Improve the effectiveness of law enforcement

Communities can better enforce policies designed to stop drinking among children and adolescents. Studies find that existing laws regulating underage drinking are often not enforced. When these laws are ignored, it not only enables young people to drink, but also communicates a general indifference.

Change social norms

Children draw conclusions about alcohol-related social norms from what they see and hear about alcohol in their families and communities. These norms strongly influence their own attitudes and behaviors regarding alcohol. When communities consistently prevent underage access to alcohol, publicize and enforce alcohol-related laws, and limit the promotion of alcohol, they reinforce the message that alcohol use by young people is unacceptable.

Choosing an Initial Strategy

As you plan your campaign, you should choose one or a combination of strategies from this guide that will work best for your community. The ideas listed below will help you decide. The strategy should be:

Direct, so people will understand what is being proposed.

  • Possible within the resources, constraints, and influence of your community or agency.
  • Generally supported by citizens, businesses, and public officials.
  • Able to show some results in the short term—in one year, for example.
  • Able to help build coalitions or partnerships that will broaden the reach of the campaign.
  • Start now and your community will be a safer and healthier place for young people of all ages.

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