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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.

Copyright 2014 Northwest News Network

Chris Lehman covers the Oregon state capitol for JPR as part of the Northwest News Network, a group of 12 Northwest public radio organizations which collaborate on regional news coverage. Chris graduated from Temple University with a journalism degree in 1997. He began his career producing arts features for Red River Public Radio in Shreveport, Louisiana and has been a reporter/announcer for NPR station WNIJ in DeKalb, Illinois. Chris has also reported from overseas, filing stories from Iraq, Burkina Faso, El Salvador, Northern Ireland, Zimbabwe and Uganda.
Chris Lehman
Chris Lehman graduated from Temple University with a journalism degree in 1997. He landed his first job less than a month later, producing arts stories for Red River Public Radio in Shreveport, Louisiana. Three years later he headed north to DeKalb, Illinois, where he worked as a reporter and announcer for NPR–affiliate WNIJ–FM. In 2006 he headed west to become the Salem Correspondent for the Northwest News Network.