Summit confirms Utah's liquor laws working, Senate leaders say

Published: Thursday, Sept. 6 2012 7:31 p.m. MDT

Niederhauser said he doesn't see any "earth-shattering" changes coming to state liquor laws when lawmakers convene next January. But Valentine said there could be a number of things focused on balancing accessibility to alcohol with public safety.

"We're going to have to recognize that restaurants are a legitimate place for alcohol consumption to occur and it has the least social cost," he said.

Lawmakers in a special session earlier this year voted to add 90 new restaurant liquor licenses and strengthen the state's efforts to curb both underage drinking and drunk driving.

At Thursday's conference, Jernigan said binge drinking is the biggest alcohol-related problem in the country, especially among high school students and college-age young people.

And he said it increases with household income. Utah, he said, has a lower prevalence than other states, but when binging occurs, it's more intense.

Niederhauser said binge drinking is something lawmakers need to look into.

"That has really come to light to me today. I'm really sheltered on this because I have not done that in my life. But I know it happens out there," he said.

Modern alcoholic beverages are of their essence marketed beverages, Jernigan said. "People drink the marketing," he said.

There is a direct correlation between the ads and what kids are drinking, he said.

"We're trying to reduce youth exposure to alcohol advertisements and we're not making the progress we should be making," Jernigan said.

Jernigan likened digital alcohol advertising to the "wild, wild West without a sheriff," should it continue unrestricted.

Young people are exposed to alcohol ads on television and radio, in magazines and increasingly through social media. In 2009, there were 315,581 alcohol commercials on TV, he said. Youth exposure to those ads has grown faster than adult exposure, much of it on cable non-sports programming.

"What parent, what teacher can possibly keep up with that amount of sophisticated messages about how great it is to drink that are reaching our young people every day on television alone," Jernigan said.

Social media have become a powerful tool for alcohol advertisers, he said. Companies post videos on the Internet that are too long or too explicit for television, and young people put up their own videos or photos of themselves drinking certain brands or displaying certain logos.

"It's the new word of mouth," Jernigan said.

E-mail: romboy@desnews.com, Twitter: dennisromboy

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