Last Call for High Risk Bar Promotions That Target College Students

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Many people consider drinking a normal and integral part of the college experience. Despite this expectation, researchers from the Harvard University School of Public Health made headlines in 1994-95 when their nationwide survey revealed that almost half of all college students "binge drink" (five or more drinks in a row for men, four or more for women). The survey found heavy-drinking students more likely to suffer from a variety of health and academic consequences. Even students who don't drink heavily suffer second-hand effects from their fellow students' binging, including interrupted sleep or studying, property damage, and sexual or other assaults.

On and around campus, students see a variety of messages about drinking. Most campuses now offer "prevention" and "alcohol awareness" programs, but those programs compete for student attention with happy hours, keg parties and bar crawls. Wellness campaigns are too often lost in an environment that, on the whole, supports heavy drinking.

Although heavy student drinking has remained constant, the campus environment has changed noticeably since the early 1980s. Brewing companies, once highly-visible at many campus events and activities, now maintain a more subtle presence. Beer ads no longer dominate student newspapers. In their absence, local bars have increased their advertising. Some advertise drink specials and other promotions that encourage students to drink excessively. Examples of common high-risk marketing practices include all-you-can drink specials, "twofers," "coin nights," ladies nights, "bladder busts" and bar crawls. (To view some of those ads.)

This guide was created to help members of college communities take action to create a healthier campus environment and ease the pressure on students to drink.

Chapter 1 considers drinking and its consequences, for college students and others in the community.

Chapter 2 examines alcohol marketing and promotional practices on campus and in campus media. It also discusses strategies to reduce irresponsible marketing and service practices at bars frequented by students.

Chapter 3 looks at laws and policies that restrict alcohol advertising on college campuses.

Chapter 4 discusses laws designed to limit high-risk promotions.

Chapter 5 presents community-based approaches to reducing problems associated with heavy drinking at area bars.

Chapter 6 puts all the pieces together, offering tips for organizing a coalition, gathering information, developing a strategic plan, and taking action to change bar marketing and service practices.

Who should use this guide?

This guide is for anyone who lives on or near a college campus and wants to defend students and other community members from irresponsible marketing practices that encourage heavy drinking. Whether you are a college administrator, student, parent, public health professional, member of a community coalition or a neighbor who has grown tired of late-night noise and vandalism, this manual provides the tools you need to combat the marketing practices that invite students to binge.

As you read, we encourage you to consider strategies that might work where you live. Share this guide with others as you're getting started, and refer to it as you develop and implement a strategic plan.

To read the entire Last Call report