When the Fetal Position Is All That’s Left: New data points to the end of arguments against interstate alcohol shipping
Last Wednesday, the R Street Institute, a non-partisan think tank focused on free trade, issued a white paper that examined the question of whether liberalized wine shipping laws have led to an increase in minors’ consumption of alcohol. What their study of underage drinking and wine shipping found is fairly definitive.
“States that allowed DtC wine shipments in 2003 and in 2019 showed an average drop of 44.3 percent in the underage drinking rate. States that did not allow DtC wine shipments in 2003 and still did not in 2019 showed an average drop of 43 percent. In other words, underage drinking rates declined a few percentage points more in states that have continuously allowed DtC wine shipments over the past few decades versus ones that have continuously prohibited it. This is not to suggest that DtC wine shipments necessarily reduce underage drinking, but, at the very least, it does suggest that DtC wine shipments have not led to an increase in underage drinking rates.”
The R Street Institute was able to come to this conclusion by measuring minors’ consumption of alcohol using state-by-state data from the long-running Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) survey and layering it over state-by-state changes in wine shipping laws.
This is an important white paper and an important finding. What I can guarantee is that it will be used profitably in lawsuits challenging state laws that discriminate against out-of-state wine retailers by banning their shipments of wine while allowing shipments of wine from their own in-state retailers. The findings will be used specifically by me when I am asked to provide written expert testimony in these cases. That testimony will then be used in the legal briefs where the case is argued. It is often argued (incorrectly I think) by states that if health and safety are at stake, a state’s discriminatory laws may be upheld as constitutional. This recent study confirms what we have always said: There is no evidence that wine shipments impact the health and safety of minors.