Liquor Bans on College Campuses: New Distilled Spirits Policies

Some colleges have imposed new alcohol policies. These policies create liquor bans on campuses. The policies now restrict the drinking distilled spirits (liquor).

These policies are well-intentioned. They’re an effort to reduce the harms sometimes caused by alcohol abuse.

Liquor Bans on College Campuses

Yet the policies will almost certainly be ineffective. That’s because they’re based on a myth. That myth makes a big distinction between spirits and beer and wine.

In fact, standard drinks of beer, wine and spirits all contain the same amount of pure alcohol. In each case it’s 6/10ths of an ounce.

liquor bans on college
Standard Drinks

Thus, the policies falsely distinguishes between these drinks. In doing this, they send a dangerous message. It’s that beer and wine are drinks of moderation. But spirits are drinks of abuse.

Of course, there are no drinks of either moderation or abuse. There are only behaviors of moderation or abuse. That’s why any alcohol policy should focus on behavior itself.

Possibly Counter Productive

These new alcohol policies are likely to be counter productive. Reactance theory predicts that students will drink more liquor as a result. Here’s why.

    1. Students have expected to be able to drink spirits.
    2. They believe they should be able to do so.
    3. They are now (in their minds) unfairly restricted and their freedom is denied.
    4. Therefore, they will drink more spirits in order to assert their freedom.

This theory predicts a wide variety of behaviors under such conditions. That includes drinking behaviors. And its been shown to bc correct

There’s no reason to enact policies based on a myth. And ones that might well prove to be counter productive. Yet scientific evidence supports some programs. One example is that of social norms clarification. (It’s often called social norms marketing.)

Other Options

Social Norms Clarification
     The Problem

Research has repeatedly shown that most students misperceive the quantity and frequency of alcohol consumption on their campuses. Most students falsely believe that most other students drink much more than they really do. And most students want to “fit in.” Therefore, most students either either drink or drink more than they prefer.

     The Solution

Social norms clarification works by reducing misperceptions. It does this my conducting a widespread anonymous survey on a campus. It’s to find the actual quantity and frequency of drinking. It then publicizes or markets these facts. Once students realize the reality, they are empowered to reduce their drinking to the lower levels they usually prefer.

Other Programs

A federal agency (NIAAA) gives useful facts about many programs. Its College AIM: Alcohol Intervention Matrix is online. Or readers can order free hard copies on the same site.


Standard drinks of spirits, beer and wine all contain the same amount of pure alcohol. Because they’re all the same to breath testers. So they should also be the same to colleges.

Bans on spirits are probably ineffective. There’s no evidence they work. Even worse, they may be counter productive.

Resources: Liquor Bans on College Campuses