TUESDAY, Oct. 28, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- "Social host" laws, which hold adults accountable for any underage drinking that takes place on their property, may help curb teenage drinking, according to the preliminary findings of a new study.
Researchers found that the number of teens who reported drinking at parties on weekends was reduced when they lived in towns with strong social host laws, according to the study published in the November issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.
"It does look like there is less frequent drinking among teenagers in cities with stringent social host laws, even when other city and youth characteristics that are related to underage drinking are controlled for," study lead researcher, Mallie Paschall, a senior research scientist at the Prevention Research Center in Oakland, Calif., said in a journal news release. "So these laws might be an effective strategy for reducing hazardous drinking."
Paschall noted that although the researchers found a correlation between social host laws and reduced teen drinking, the study didn't prove that social host laws have a direct effect on teen drinking. "These findings are preliminary. We can't say that social host laws definitely prevent kids from drinking at parties," said Paschall.
But targeting alcohol consumption at parties likely helps, because teens generally get alcohol from social sources such as parties, as opposed to commercial sources, according to Paschall.
The study involved 50 communities in California. Half of the communities included in the study had social host laws. The most stringent social host laws had certain key provisions, including a hefty fine. Property owners may also held responsible for underage drinking even if they claim they didn't know about it, according to the researchers.
The study's authors said these laws are often the source of controversy in many communities and may not be well-enforced. And, in some cases, they may not be well-publicized. But without awareness and enforcement, the laws aren't effective, the researchers added.
Looking ahead, the study's authors said more research is needed to examine the effects of these laws by looking at underage drinking before and after the laws are passed. They also said future research should investigate how social host laws influence problems related to underage drinking, such as drunk driving.
The U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism provides more information on social host laws and underage drinking.
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