Evaluation of a local ordinance to prevent any underage purchases in liquor stores: The need for enforcement

Adam J. Milam, C. Debra M. Furr-Holden, Elizabeth D. Nesoff, Pamela J. Trangenstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: In June 2012, Baltimore City, MD, enacted legislation (commonly referred to as the Mosby Bill) prohibiting all liquor stores (outlets that primarily sell alcoholic beverages) from selling “any food, goods, wares, supplies, or other merchandise to any person under the age of 18.” Three years after enactment, we evaluated the impact of this legislation on non-alcohol product sales among youth. Method: Research assistants (RAs) ages 16–20 were trained in using a standardized observational tool to quantify and record characteristics of the outlets, including products sold. A trained pair comprising one RA age 16 to 20 and one RA exactly age 18 were sent into every liquor store (i.e., packaged goods stores and bar/taverns with packaged goods sales) in Baltimore to conduct the assessment and make a non-alcohol purchase. Since the research was not conducted in concert with the police, the 18-year-old RA made the purchase attempt while the other (age 16 to 20) RA completed the assessment. Results: Purchase attempts were made at 502 liquor stores, and 352 of those attempts were suc-cessful (able to make purchase without being asked for identification or age; noncompliance rate = 68.1%). Noncompliance was highest among packaged goods stores compared with bar/taverns, and in neighborhoods with a lower median household income and a higher proportion of African American residents (p < .050). Noncompliant outlets were also located closer to public schools (p < .050). Conclusions: This evaluation demonstrates that, in the absence of enforcement, ordinances are neither likely to be honored nor to achieve the intended public health benefits.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)219-227
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2021


  • Adolescent
  • Alcoholic Beverages/legislation & jurisprudence
  • Baltimore
  • Commerce/legislation & jurisprudence
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Public Health
  • Residence Characteristics
  • Young Adult

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Toxicology


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