April 3, 2008

Study: Malt Liquor Heavily Promoted in Black Neighborhoods

U study: Malt liquor heavily promoted in black neighborhoods -- University of Minnesota researchers hope new data about the accessibility and advertising of malt liquor in black neighborhoods will encourage new policy debates.

Comparing neighborhoods in 10 U.S. cities, the researchers found that malt liquor was heavily promoted in black neighborhoods and was available in greater quantities and at lower prices. Their results were released Wednesday and published in the Journal of Substance Use and Misuse.

Cheap access to malt liquor, which has a higher alcohol volume than beer, means it is easier for underage kids to obtain, said Rhonda Jones-Webb, an associate professor in the U's School of Public Health.

"The average price (for a 40-ounce single bottle) was $1.87," she said. "That's less than a gallon of milk."

Economic status didn't play a role, as low-income white, Hispanic and Asian neighborhoods didn't have as much access to malt liquor as comparable black neighborhoods.

The federally funded study found the accessibility of malt liquor was highest in black neighborhoods that also have some of the highest homicide rates. Jones-Webb said high consumption of malt liquor could be related to those homicide rates, but the study did not prove that connection.

Policy leaders should be asking whether beer companies are simply responding to market demand or whether their promotion of malt liquor in black communities fuels a social problem, Jones-Webb said.

Cities such as Seattle already have responded with policies

that restrict the sale of single-bottle containers, such as the "forties" that contain malt liquor.