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Reducing liquor outlets won't curb drinking

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Using zoning laws to limit alcohol outlet density won't stop the heaviest drinkers from consuming alcoholic beverages ("Government should use zoning to limit liquor stores, Hopkins researchers say," April 11). Such a solution oversimplifies the problem of alcohol abuse.

Just compare Maryland and Pennsylvania. Despite its smaller population, Maryland's private control of alcohol sales means it has roughly 1.5 times as many alcohol retail outlets as government-controlled Pennsylvania. Yet according to the National Institute for Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse, per capita alcohol consumption in both states is nearly the same — 2.21 gallons per year for Maryland and 2.19 for Pennsylvania. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Pennsylvania has higher rates of underage drinking and binge drinking than Maryland.

If retail density directly leads to problem drinking, shouldn't Pennsylvania fare better than its southern neighbor? Instead of making a legal product less available to responsible adults, we should focus on getting alcohol abusers the treatment that they need.

Sarah Longwell, Washington

The writer is managing director of the American Beverage Institute.

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