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Reducing High-Risk Drinking by Young Americans South of the Border: The Impact of a Partial Ban on Sales of Alcohol

Robert B. Voas, James E. Lange, Mark B. Johnson

Objective: Determine the effect of a partial sales ban on cross border drinking in Mexico. Method: On weekend evenings, thousands of youths (younger than 21 years) and young adults (21 to 25 years) residing in communities along the U.S. border cross over into Mexico to patronize all-night bars where the drinking age is 18 rather than 21 years and where the price of alcohol is considerably less than in the United States. On January 1, 1999, Juárez, Mexico, across the border from El Paso, Texas, implemented a 2 AM bar closing policy replacing the previous 5 AM closing time. Breath alcohol tests of pedestrians at the Juárez/El Paso border before and after the policy change were compared with a similar sample of pedestrians at the Tijuana, Mexico/San Diego, California border. Results: At the Juárez/El Paso border, the total number of youths with positive BACs returning from Juárez after 3 AM when the bars were closed was reduced 89%, whereas the number returning between midnight and 3 AM remained unchanged. There was no change in either period at the Tijuana/San Diego comparison site. Conclusions: Early closing of the bars in Juárez reduced the number of youths returning after 3 AM to the United States with positive BACs. (J. Stud. Alcohol 63: 286-292, 2002)