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Researchers Say Liquor Privatization Has Reshaped Youth Alcohol Perceptions

Tom Banse
Northwest News Network

Hard alcohol is much more convenient to buy in Washington these days.

That was the whole point of the voter-approved initiative that shifted liquor sales away from state control.

But two public health researchers say that the wider availability has come with a societal price tag. They say surveys of Washington youth show increased acceptance of drinking among high school age teens.

"The normalness of it just makes it seem more acceptable, more like, 'Oh, this is what our community does, this is what our society does,'" says Linda Becker, who co-authored the study. She's a researcher for Washington's Department of Social and Health Services.

Becker says the research also shows an increase in alcohol-related visits to Seattle-area emergency rooms over the past year. And she says there's more shop-lifting of liquor, too.

In Oregon, the grocery industry is trying to get a liquor privatization initiative on the ballot similar to Washington's this fall.

A public health consultant was quick to peddle the unflattering findings to the media in Salem.