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Keywords:

  • Alcohol regulation;
  • alcohol consumption;
  • government monopoly;
  • mortality;
  • privatization

ABSTRACT

Aims  To study relationships between rates of alcohol-related deaths and (i) the density of liquor outlets and (ii) the proportion of liquor stores owned privately in British Columbia (BC) during a period of rapid increase in private stores.

Design  Multi-level regression analyses assessed the relationship between population rates of private liquor stores and alcohol-related mortality after adjusting for potential confounding.

Setting  The 89 local health areas of BC, Canada across a 6-year period from 2003 to 2008, for a longitudinal sample with n = 534.

Measurements  Population rates of liquor store density, alcohol-related death and socio-economic variables obtained from government sources.

Findings  The total number of liquor stores per 1000 residents was associated significantly and positively with population rates of alcohol-related death (P < 0.01). A conservative estimate is that rates of alcohol-related death increased by 3.25% for each 20% increase in private store density. The percentage of liquor stores in private ownership was also associated independently with local rates of alcohol-related death after controlling for overall liquor store density (P < 0.05). Alternative models confirmed significant relationships between changes in private store density and mortality over time.

Conclusions  The rapidly rising densities of private liquor stores in British Columbia from 2003 to 2008 was associated with a significant local-area increase in rates of alcohol-related death.