Communities With Strong Social Hosting Laws Linked to Less Underage Drinking

Teens who live in communities with strict social hosting laws are less likely to drink at parties, says a new study in the November issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. Social hosting laws hold adults responsible for any underage drinkers partaking on their property.

Fifty Californian communities were investigated, half having existing social hosting laws. Communities with strong social hosting laws were identified as the towns where the law is aimed at underage drinking, where penalties and fines are quickly administered, and the property owners are held accountable for any underage drinking – even if they were unaware of it.

Mallie Paschall, Ph.D., a senior research scientist at the Prevention Research Center in Oakland, California, says the preliminary findings are encouraging since most teenagers rely on getting alcohol from social sources, instead of buying it at a store. “In theory, laws aimed at those social sources – the parents or other adults of legal drinking age – should help reduce underage drinking,” Paschall said.

Paschall noted that public knowledge and enforcement of the laws are key. He said that if adults don’t know they can be held accountable, and if police officers and local prosecutors don’t enforce the social hosting laws, then the policies won’t be a deterrent for underage drinking.

Many states and local communities have passed social hosting laws. The details of the laws vary from community to community and from state to state. Research leading up to Paschall’s study produced mixed results on whether or not the social hosting laws prevent teenage drinking.

Future studies will include researchers looking at the rates of teen drinking both before and after social hosting legislation was passed to determine if the policies truly have an impact on deterring underage drinking. Paschall also stated that it is important to study whether or not social hosting legislation reduce teen drinking related problems like drunk driving.