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Preventing Excessive Alcohol Consumption: Maintaining Limits on Hours of Sale

One strategy to prevent excessive alcohol consumption and related harms is to limit access by regulating the hours during which alcohol can legally be sold. Approaches may include:

  • Maintaining existing limits in response to efforts to expand hours of sale
  • Expanding current limits on hours of sale

Policies limiting hours of sale may apply to outlets that sell alcohol for consumption at the place of purchase (on-premises outlets, such as bars or restaurants) or elsewhere (off-premises outlets, such as liquor stores). In the United States, policies may be made at the state level and, where not prohibited, by state pre-emption laws at local levels.

Summary of Task Force Recommendations and Findings

The Community Preventive Services Task Force  recommends maintaining limits on hours of alcohol sale in on-premises settings, based on sufficient evidence of effectiveness for reducing excessive alcohol consumption and related harms.

Two separate analyses were conducted to determine if an increase in hours of sale in on-premises outlets was associated with an increase in alcohol-related harms:

  • Sufficient evidence was found for increasing hours of sale by two or more hours
  • Insufficient evidence was found for increasing hours of sale by less than two hours

All evidence was from studies of events in high income nations; no studies were conducted in the United States. No studies assessed the effects of increasing hours of alcohol sales in off-premises settings.

Task Force Finding

Results from the Systematic Review

Increasing hours of sale by two or more hours in on-premises settings (e.g., bars and restaurants)

Ten studies qualified for the review. These studies reported on six events that changed the hours of alcohol sales by two or more hours.

  • Studies were conducted in Australia (6 studies of 4 events), England (3 studies of 1 event), and Iceland (1 study of 1 event).
  • Extending hours of sale by 2 to 4 hours was associated with:
    • An increase in alcohol consumption (1 study, Australia)
    • A relative increase in motor vehicle crash injuries ranging from 4% to 11% (2 studies, Australia)
    • A shift in timing of motor vehicle crashes corresponding to the change in closing time of the outlet (1 study, Australia)
  • Removing restrictions on hours of sale, i.e., allowing sales of alcohol 24 hours a day or allowing outlets to stay open to any hour, was associated with:
    • An increase in motor vehicle crash injuries (1 study, Australia)
    • An increase in emergency room admissions, injuries, fighting, and suspected driving while intoxicated (1 study, Iceland)
    • An increase in alcohol-related assault and injury (1 study, England)
    • A decrease in violent crime offenses (1 study, England)
    • A decrease in maxillofacial trauma (1 study, England)

Increasing hours of sale by less than two hours in on-premises settings (e.g., bars and restaurants)

Six studies qualified for the review. These studies reported on five events that changed the hours of alcohol sales by less than two hours.

  • Studies were conducted in Australia (2 studies of 2 events), Scotland (2 studies of 1 event), England and Wales (1 study of 1 event), and Canada (1 study of 1 event).
  • Effect estimates from these studies were inconsistent, suggesting no substantial effect on alcohol-related outcomes of changes in hours of alcohol sales that are less than two hours.

These results were based on a systematic review of all available studies, conducted on behalf of the Task Force by a team of specialists in systematic review methods, and in research, practice and policy related to excessive alcohol consumption.

Economic Evidence

No studies met Community Guide requirements for an economic review of this intervention.

Supporting Materials

Publications

Hahn RA, Kuzara JL, Elder R, Brewer R, Chattopadhyay S, Fielding J, Naimi TS, Toomey T, Middleton JC, Lawrence B, Task Force on Community Preventive Services. Effectiveness of policies restricting hours of alcohol sales in preventing excessive alcohol consumption and related harms.Adobe PDF File [PDF - 735 kB] Am J Prev Med 2010;39(6):590-604.

Task Force on Community Preventive Services. Recommendations on maintaining limits on days and hours of sale of alcoholic beverages to prevent excessive alcohol consumption and related harms. Adobe PDF File [PDF - 112 kB] Am J Prev Med 2010;39(6):605-6.

Read other Community Guide publications about Preventing Excessive Alcohol Consumption in our library.

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Disclaimer

The findings and conclusions on this page are those of the Community Preventive Services Task Force and do not necessarily represent those of CDC. Task Force evidence-based recommendations are not mandates for compliance or spending. Instead, they provide information and options for decision makers and stakeholders to consider when determining which programs, services, and policies best meet the needs, preferences, available resources, and constraints of their constituents.

Sample Citation

The content of publications of the Guide to Community Preventive Services is in the public domain. Citation as to source, however, is appreciated. Sample citation: Guide to Community Preventive Services. Preventing excessive alcohol consumption: maintaining limits on hours of sale. www.thecommunityguide.org/alcohol/limitinghourssale.html. Last updated: MM/DD/YYYY.

Review completed: February 2009