Sunday, November 17, 2013

Sunday Alcohol Blue Laws: Keeping consumption in-check?

In a brand new paper by SUNY economist Bans Yoruk, the author analyzes alcohol consumption rates in five states which recently repealed laws banning the sale of alcohol on Sundays. The findings, published online this month in the journal Addiction, show that in three of the five states, per capita alcohol consumption rose significantly in the years following the repeals. Beer seems to be the type of alcohol responsible for most of the increase across the states, with wine and spirits seeing small, if any, changes in demand.

The five states studied were Delaware, which repealed its law against Sunday alcohol sales in 2003, as did Massachusetts and Pennsylvania; Rhode Island, which repealed in 2004; and New Mexico, where the law was changed in 1995. The three states whose per capita consumption increased were Delaware (from 4% pre-repeal to 4.7% post-repeal), Pennsylvania (4% to 4.6%), and New Mexico (6.5% to 7.1%). The increase in Rhode Island was “small and statistically insignificant,” and there was no change in Massachusetts. (Interestingly, the demand for beer seemed to drive the up-tick in sales – all three states where the overall demand rose saw beer consumption increase by about a full percentage point.) The five states were then compared to control states, like our beautiful Minnesota, where alcohol Blue Laws remain in effect. 

Here's the graph from the paper:

Professor Yoruk's analysis falls on the heels of another study which tracked the effects of, among other variables, perceived alcohol availability and bar density on adolescent alcohol consumption. Paschall, et al. found such environmental factors contributed significantly to higher rates of past-year alcohol use. Could it be that an archaic and puritanical relic could actually be saving some lives? Will be interesting to see what readers think about the issue…


        Paschall, M. J., Lipperman‐Kreda, S., & Grube, J. W. (2013). Effects of the Local Alcohol Environment on Adolescents’ Drinking Behaviors and Beliefs.Addiction.
        Yörük, B. K. (2013). Legalization of Sunday alcohol sales and alcohol consumption in the United States. Addiction.


  1. As silly as I've often thought these "archaic and puritanical" laws are, they often played a role in helping me stay or get back on track when I was struggling with alcohol.

  2. My kneejerk reaction to the article was "screw those stodgy, conservative buzzkills, trying to rob people of fun." But Anne Fletcher's comment rapidly brought me back to the reality of the situation; they are validated if 1 person is helped in breaking away from the vice-grip of serious alcohol problems by the Blue Sunday laws.


Comments are welcome.