Seeking another tool to stem underage and binge drinking, the Alcohol Policy Coalition proposes an increase of Utah's beer tax.
The proposed increase, which would raise the tax to 4.8 cents (from 3.3 cents) a can or to $14 per barrel (up from $11). A barrel is considered 31 gallons of beer.Although the reported alcohol use of Utah college students is lower than their peers nationwide, coalition members fear controls that they can link to lower consumption are being eroded by changes in state policy on alcohol.
"The thing that really concerns me is we're beginning to liberalize the very controls that are working in Utah. We don't want to look like other states," said coalition chairman Dr. George Van Komen, referring to recent changes in the state's alcohol advertising laws.
Van Komen, a physician, announced the proposal Thursday to report the findings of a recent study of alcohol use on college campuses.
Researchers and coalition members were most disturbed by two findings: underage students drink beer more frequently before they start college, and 10 percent of students reported they had driven a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol.
National statistics indicate 44 percent of all college students binge drink. At one third of the nation's campuses, half of the students binge drink, according to studies by the Harvard School of Public Health.
Among Utah's college students, 12 percent report binge drinking their first year of college. About 7 percent binge drink later in their college careers. If data from LDS Church owned Brigham Young University is extracted, 18 percent of freshman report binge drinking and 12 percent binge later in their college careers.
Utah's tough drunken-driving laws, prohibition of alcohol promotion on college campuses, high beer taxes and family and religious orientation contribute to the lower consumption levels, said Van Komen.
A survey found students at Utah's urban colleges - the University of Utah, Salt Lake Community College, Weber State College, Utah State University, Westminster College and Utah Valley State College - were more likely to consume alcohol than their rural coun-ter-parts.
"As expected, almost all students at Brigham Young University claimed never to drink beer. About one in 10 admitted to drinking before coming to college, but only 1 or 2 percent claimed to drink beer with any frequency after they came to BYU," the survey said.