Drink prices, drink specials, and tobacco policies in a national sample of on-premise drinking establishments




LoParco, Cassidy
Walker, Drew
Trangenstein, Pamela
Khoshhal, Bita
Gonzalez-Pons, Kwynn
Thombs, Dennis
Rossheim, Matthew


0000-0003-4206-4179 (LoParco, Cassidy)

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Background: Bar and nightclub practices, such as offering inexpensive drinks, having pricing promotions (e.g., 2-for-1, happy hour), and permitting e-cigarette use indoors can increase the amount of alcohol that individuals consume and the number of negative consequences they experience. College students in particular may have a greater risk of increased consumption and related harms to themselves and others. Despite the implications, few studies have assessed the presence of low-cost alcohol and e-cigarette-friendly environments around colleges. The current study surveilled drink prices and specials and examined associated characteristics of on-premise drinking establishments near large universities. Methods: In 2018, telephone calls about prices, practices, and policies were made to 404 randomly selected bars and nightclubs within 2 miles of the largest residential universities in each U.S. state. The Alcohol Policy Information System provided data on state-level alcohol policies. Multivariable linear and logistic regression models examined associations between drinking establishment characteristics, drink prices, and drink specials. Results: The average price for a beer and a shot of vodka were $3.62 and $4.77, respectively. Most establishments (65%) had happy hour specials and 6% had 2-for-1 drink specials. Nearly all (91%) sold food, while 9% sold cigarettes on-premise and 8% allowed smoking inside. Almost 1 in 5 establishments (18%) allowed e-cigarette use inside. Allowing e-cigarette use indoors (b = -0.54) and selling cigarettes on-premise (b = -0.79) were associated with significantly lower vodka prices, whereas allowing cigarette smoking inside (b = -0.46) was associated with significantly lower beer prices. Several factors were significantly associated with higher odds of having a happy hour special, including lower beer prices (OR = 1.38), selling food (OR = 2.97), no state law banning happy hour specials with full day price reductions permitted (OR = 12.74), and no complete bans on happy hour specials (OR = 4.24). Allowing e-cigarette use indoors was significantly associated with higher odds of having a 2-for-1 drink special (OR = 6.38). Conclusions: The current study is one of the first to identify associations between business practices/policies of on-premise drinking establishments and drink prices. This study used a national sample of on-premise drinking locations near large universities to provide insight into how alcohol prices may be discounted to promote sales of other products. For example, locations selling cigarettes on-premise were associated with lower vodka prices. Importantly, previous research indicates positive associations between alcohol consumption and smoking. Coupled with the lowered drink prices, settings that are permissive of smoking and vaping may be associated with increased risk of both heavy drinking and tobacco use, as well as their related harms. Given the frequently offered drink specials and strong association between price and consumption, more research is needed regarding alcohol prices/specials at on-premise drinking sites.