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Harvard research: Cheap drinks lead to costly habits

(U-WIRE) LAWRENCE, Kan. – The cheaper the beers, the more you’ll drink.
Harvard University public health researchers published a study in October’s American Journal of Preventive Medicine that they say verifies this seemingly implicit assumption. The study results showed that “alcohol promotions, price specials and large-volume discounts are associated with higher binge drinking rates.”
The researchers based their conclusions on visits they made to nearly 830 bars and restaurants and 1,684 liquor stores in 118 college neighborhoods nationwide. The study also included data taken from more than 10,000 students.
Alcohol-related incidents lead to nearly 1,400 deaths each year for college students. A half-million are injured and about 70,000 sexually assaulted when alcohol is involved, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
These numbers and the outcry to reduce binge drinking on college campuses, led researchers to conduct the study.
Binge drinking is defined as having five or more drinks, one after the other, for men and four or more for women. Surveys taken from a 2001 College Alcohol Study, also done by Harvard, showed that two out of five college students are binge drinkers.
The Harvard study showed that, “the lower the price of beer in the surrounding community, the higher the binge drinking rate at the college.”
“All-you-can-drink” and “$1 you-call-it” specials can be found in almost any college town in the country. Lawrence, Kan., is no exception.
Several area bars offer specials on various nights of the week. Fatso’s is one of them.
Gavin Smith, Fatso’s manager, said that Wednesday, “$1 anything” night, and Saturday, live music night, were its most popular nights.
“They’re the things that draw people in,” Smith said. “Real, real cheap drinks and live music.”
Dollar well drinks and dollar shots are other popular specials at area bars.
Jet Lag Lounge boasts dollar well shots on Thursdays and three-dollar pitchers on Mondays.
“The drink specials and the fact that we have no cover is what draw a lot of people in on those nights,” said Angela Hale, bar manager at Jet Lag Lounge.
For many students, cheap drink specials on a given night sway what bar they will go to.
“It seems people are drawn to the places with cheaper drinks,” said Lauren Keefer, Wichita junior. “It is a factor when I’m deciding where to go.”
Not all establishment workers said they thought that cheap drinks were the deciding factor Aaron Silber, assistant manager at The Pool Room, said there were other factors in play.
“Drink specials do a little, but for us it’s more the environment,” Silber said.
The Pool Room has live hip-hop shows and several pool tables, factors that Silber said drew crowds.
Some students think other factors have more to do with where they go than the drink specials.
“For me, cheap drinks is not as important as the bar atmosphere,” said Ryan McBee, Overland Park junior. “Music is also a big draw.”
But bar owners say price is what draws patrons.
“If you’re the most expensive place in town, you’re not going to get business,” said Scott Dodgin, general manager at Emerson Biggins Sports Bar and Grill.
“The biggest thing is cheap beers, cheap drinks,” Dodgin said. “That’s the only way to appeal to these college kids.”

September 26, 2003

Reporters

The Miami Hurricane

Student newspaper at the University of Miami


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