Background: Many population studies find that alcohol prices are inversely related to alcohol consumption and alcohol-related problems, including among college students and young adults. Yet, little is known about the “micro-level” effects of alcohol price on the behavior of individual consumers in natural drinking settings such as college bars. Therefore, we assessed patron’s cost per gram of ethanol consumed at on-premise drinking establishments and its association with intoxication upon leaving an establishment.
Methods: On 4 consecutive nights during April 2008, data were collected from 804 patrons exiting 7 on-premise establishments in a bar district located adjacent to a large university campus in the southeastern United States. Anonymous interview and survey data were collected as well as breath alcohol concentration (BrAC) readings. We calculated each patron’s expenditures per unit of ethanol consumed based on self-reported information regarding the type, size, number, and cost of consumed drinks.
Results: A multivariable model revealed that a 10-cent increase in cost per gram of ethanol at on-premise establishments was associated with a 30% reduction in the risk of exiting an establishment intoxicated (i.e., BrAC ≥ 0.08 g/210 l).
Conclusions: The results are consistent with economic theory and population-level research regarding the price elasticity of alcoholic beverages, which show that increases in alcohol prices are accompanied by less alcohol consumption. These findings suggest that stricter regulation of the drink discounting practices of on-premise drinking establishments would be an effective strategy for reducing the intoxication levels of exiting patrons.