The effectiveness of keg registration (or keg tagging) in reducing underage drinking problems is unclear. That’s because virtually no research on the subject is done. Even publications that suggest findings often don’t. An example is “Measuring public policy. The case of beer keg registration laws.”1
We need to know the effectiveness of keg registration laws.
- Keg Registration
- Keg Registration Laws
I. Effectiveness of Keg Registration
Beer keg tagging laws require retailers to place ID number on kegs over a certain size. They also require retailers to maintain records of the purchasers along with the keg numbers.
The goal of such laws is simple. Illegal activities sometimes involve drinking from kegs. This typically involves drinkers under the age of 21. When that occurs, police can identify the purchaser. That person is generally of legal age.
Beer kegs also promote excessive drinking People drinking from cans or bottles are likely to drink less. That’s because they don’t want to let the remaining beer “go to waste.”
The same thing often happens when people in a restaurant drink wine. When buying by the glass they’re often less likely to drink as much. Compared to if they buy a bottle. That’s because they don’t want to let remaining wine go to waste. For this reason, some states make it legal to take home an unfinished bottle.
II. Keg Laws
No Keg Laws
These states have no keg registration.
Note that Wickipedia incorrectly lists Kentucky, New York, and Ohio as having keg tagging laws. They do not. Of course, Wikipedia is neither a scholarly nor a reliable site.
People tend to see beer as as having less alcohol than wine or liquor (distilled spirits). But standard drinks of beer, wine, and spirits all have the same amount of pure alcohol. It’s six-tenth of an ounce. When it comes to alcohol, they’re all the same.
Also, Utah has no keg tagging. That’s because the state prohibits kegs. It prohibits the sale of beer in containers holding more than two liters. There are no such sales. That’s because the state government has a monopoly over all alcohol sales.
Definitions of a Keg
What’s a keg? Definitions vary widely. They range from anything over two gallons to 16 gallons. Most states define a keg as container with from four to six gallons. However, South Carolina is unique. It defines a keg as 5.16 or more gallons. Ironically, Rhode Island requires keg registration. Yet nowhere does it define a keg. That fact should delight defense lawyers.
Seventeen states have penalties for possessing an unregistered or unlabeled keg. The specific penalties vary greatly. The most severe is Oregon, with a maximum fine of $6,250 and a maximum of one year in jail. Georgia and Washington state also permit jail of up to one year. But maximum fines across the country are usually $500 or $1,000.
Yet some states and DC have no such penalties. These are the states.
These four states require a keg deposit.
Of course, retailers regularly require a deposit to ensure return of the empty kegs.
III. Research on Keg Registration
Beck studied the effectiveness of keg registration laws in reducing so-called binge drinking among underage drinkers. She concluded this. “[The fact that a state has a keg registration law in place has no effect on the number of binge drinking days in a given month.”
Ringwalt and Paschall
Ringwalt and Paschall studied the effectiveness of keg registration laws. To do so they looked at three outcomes. They were the 30 day prevalence of three adolescent behaviors.
- Binge drinking.
- Driving after drinking.
- Riding with a driver who had been drinking.
They found that only riding with a driver who had been drinking was linked with such laws.
Yoruk and Xu
Yoruk and Xu studied the effect of keg tagging laws on adolescent drinking. They also studied their effects on alcohol traffic deaths among those under age 21. There was a 2.3 percentage point lower rate of binge drinking in states with keg laws. But there was no impact of such laws on youthful alcohol traffic deaths.
Yoon and colleagues
Yoon and colleagues studied the effects of two state alcohol policies on underage drinking. That is, required server training and keg registration. At the same time, they controlled for both beer excise tax and student characteristics.
Those in states with required server training were less likely to be “binge” drinkers. That’s in comparison with students in states without that policy. Some students were in states with both policies. That is, required server training and keg registration laws. But there was no further reduction in that behavior. So keg registration laws were ineffective.
In summary, little research has been done on the effectiveness of keg registration laws. The findings are mixed. As a result, any impact of keg registration laws is unclear.
IV. Resources: Effectiveness of Keg Registration
1 Wagenaar, A. et al. Measuring public policy. The case of beer keg registration laws. Eval Prog Plan, 28(4), 359–367.
2 Beck, Z. Effectiveness of Beer Keg Registration Law on Decreasing Underage Binge Drinking. Econ, 3.
3 Ringwalt, C., & Paschall, M. The utility of keg registration laws. A cross-sectional study. J Adol Health, 48(1), 106–108.
4 Yoon, Y. et al. Keg registration, server training, beer excise tax and underage drinking. Poster, annual meeting of Am Pub Health Assn.
5 Yoruk, B. and Xu, L. Keg registration laws, alcohol consumption, and alcohol-related traffic fatalities among adolescents. J Stud Alco Drugs, 82(1), 66-75.
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