BACKGROUND: The relationship between the alcohol policy environment (ie, the combined effectiveness and implementation of multiple existing alcohol policies) and youth drinking in the United States has not been assessed. We hypothesized that stronger alcohol policy environments are inversely associated with youth drinking, and this relationship is partly explained by adult drinking. METHODS: Alcohol Policy Scale (APS) scores that characterized the strength of the state-level alcohol policy environments were assessed with repeated cross-sectional Youth Risk Behavior Survey data of representative samples of high school students in grades 9 to 12, from biennial years between 1999 and 2011. RESULTS: In fully adjusted models, a 10 percentage point increase in APS scores (representing stronger policy environments) was associated with an 8% reduction in the odds of youth drinking and a 7% reduction in the odds of youth binge drinking. After we accounted for youth-oriented alcohol policies, the subgroup of population-oriented policies was independently associated with lower odds of youth drinking (adjusted odds ratio 0.94; 95% confidence interval 0.92-0.97) and youth binge drinking (adjusted odds ratio 0.96; 95% confidence interval 0.94-0.99). State-level per capita consumption mediated the relationship between population-oriented alcohol policies and binge drinking among youth. CONCLUSIONS: Stronger alcohol policies, including those that do not target youth specifically, are related to a reduced likelihood of youth alcohol consumption. These findings suggest that efforts to reduce youth drinking should incorporate population-based policies to reduce excessive drinking among adults as part of a comprehensive approach to preventing alcohol-related harms. Future research should examine influence of alcohol policy subgroups and discrete policies.
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© 2015 by the American Academy of Pediatrics.