Alcohol Regulatory Systems: Integrating Support for Public Health and Safety

Alcohol is recognized as a leading cause of preventable death and harm in the United States. Harms result from both long-term use, such as chronic heavy drinking, and short-term alcohol misuse such as binge drinking (4+ drinks for women, 5+ drinks for men). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that more than 95,000 people die each year in the United States – 261 per day – because of excessive alcohol use.

  • Health harms to the person who is drinking include deaths and illness from alcoholic liver disease, cancers including breast cancer, hypertension, contribution to poisonings (for example, interactions with painkillers), unintentional injuries, and suicide.
  • Harms to other people from someone who is drinking include injuries, such as alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes, as well as subsequent social and emotional harms to families of people who misuse alcohol.
  • Costs to society related to these harms include lost workplace productivity, health care expenditures, and costs to the criminal justice system, valued at an estimated $249 billion in 2010.  


Regulatory approaches can help to prevent these alcohol-related harms. This report reviews alcohol regulatory systems and how specific elements of these regulations are – or can be – designed and implemented to support public health and safety. The content may be used by public health and prevention professionals to plan approaches that promote the health and safety of and in partnership with local communities.

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March 30, 2021
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