People choose to consume – or not consume – alcohol within the context of their community. Alcohol cultures, sometimes called the alcohol environment, vary greatly among communities. Like many aspects of community life, the alcohol culture draws scrutiny when it contributes to community tragedies and problems, such as alcohol related vandalism, underage drinking or drunk driving deaths.
Every community has an alcohol environment. Every resident and organization within the community is influenced by the alcohol environment and at the same time influences it. The local alcohol culture influences public policy and the policies of community organizations and institutions such as community groups, social clubs or recreational leagues. Just like our neighbors and friends influence our thoughts and actions – the alcohol environment can subtly influence your alcohol use and perception of appropriate alcohol consumption.
For example: Are alcohol beverages routinely sold at youth sporting events in your community, creating alcohol expectations among youth? Do local organizations have specific steps and policies to prevent underage drinking at these events? Do groups have policies or plans to deter excessive alcohol use by adults, such as rules on serving intoxicated adults or always requesting an ID?
Some communities limit the number of places that sell and serve alcohol because concentrations of alcohol outlets create alcohol related problems such as noise disturbances as well as more serious alcohol related property damage and crime.
Even the amount of alcohol advertising in our communities has an impact on our behavior. While alcohol billboards, signage and retail advertising may target adults, research shows that a child’s age of first drink and how much that child drinks is influenced by the amount of alcohol advertising children see and hear.
Because each community creates its own alcohol environment, not every community experiences the same problems or even needs to make specific changes. Changing a community alcohol environment is difficult; understanding the specific alcohol related problems in your community is the most practical place to begin.
Simple no-cost tools to assess your community alcohol environment are available at: