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"Addiction Policy Research Update" Newsletter - Fall 2006

This is the inaugural distribution of quarterly news tips from the Substance Abuse Policy Research Program (SAPRP) of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation—a $66 million program that funds research into policies related to alcohol, tobacco and illegal drugs.

Please contact me at if you'd like to follow up on any of the news items below. —Prabhu Ponkshe

Research Update

Fall 2006


Alcohol Sales

Repealing Ban on Sunday Alcohol Sales Increases DUI Crashes and Fatalities, According to First Series of Studies on Topic

 In New Mexico, researchers have found a substantial increase in alcohol-related traffic crashes and fatalities from lifting statewide bans on Sunday packaged alcohol sales and that risks varied greatly by region. Overall, the research clearly showed a statewide, detrimental impact of legalizing Sunday packaged alcohol sales.

The first study, published in the online version of the American Journal of Public Health, found a 29 percent increase in alcohol-related crashes and a 42 percent increase in alcohol-related crash (ARC) fatalities on Sundays since New Mexico lifted its ban on Sunday sales of packaged alcohol.

The second study, published in the journal Accident Analysis and Prevention, found the impacts of legalized Sunday alcohol sales varied greatly by county, with one county experiencing a two-fold increase in alcohol-related crashes once the ban was lifted. When the statewide ban was lifted in 1995, New Mexico’s legislation gave local jurisdictions the option of holding elections to disallow Sunday sales in their community. Three communities reinstituted the ban on Sunday sales immediately after the statewide ban was lifted. The jump in Sunday alcohol-related crash rates that was observed statewide was eliminated in the counties occupied by these three communities. The study also found that counties with older populations suffered a greater negative impact from legalized Sunday alcohol sales.

“For the first time, we have real data on whether blue laws actually protect public health,” said study co-author Dr. Garnett McMillan of the Behavioral Health Research Center of the Southwest in Albuquerque, New Mexico. “Our research shows that the Sunday ban saved lives and prevented hundreds of injuries and fatalities from alcohol-related crashes.”

This research was funded by the Substance Abuse Policy Research Program (SAPRP) of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). For copies of the articles, please contact Jeff Haskins at

Tobacco Litigation

Tobacco Industry Profits Remain High Despite Litigation and Major Settlements

Despite financial setbacks due to litigation and a US$206 billion settlement agreement, researchers from Duke University have found that the four major tobacco companies involved in a 1998 settlement outperformed companies in related industries that had also faced downturns in the economy. Provisions of the settlement agreement and the small number of the firms in the tobacco industry allow for implicit price coordination which may be responsible for stable financial health of the tobacco industry, according to the study.

This is the first study of its kind to assess tobacco industry returns during a period of litigation and the first to explicitly account for diversification by cigarette manufacturers into non-tobacco markets.

The research shows that unfavorable information concerning litigation initially hurt company stockholders because the ruling imposed large claims against the profits of these companies. However, the litigation may actually increase industry profits in the long run.

“Short term, the settlements led to higher prices and profits and also eliminated uncertainty in terms of outcome,” said Dr. Frank Sloan from the Center for Health Policy at Duke University. “The profits gained from increased prices also gave the tobacco companies time to diversify their portfolio in other areas in order to compensate for the expected long term impacts of the settlement.”

According to the authors, there were “winners and losers” in the settlement. Overall, cigarette smokers were the primary losers, incurring a sizable proportion of the costs of litigation that were shifted to consumers through higher cigarette prices and taxes after the settlement.

This research was funded by the Substance Abuse Policy Research Program (SAPRP) of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The article entitled, “Litigation and the Value of Tobacco Companies” was published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Health Economics. For a copy of the article, please contact Jeff Haskins at

Urban Planning

In Poor Communities, Mixed-Use Neighborhoods Are Better for Kids than Residential-Only Neighborhoods

A new study by a team of architects and behavioral scientists now shows that mixed-use communities, especially in low income neighborhoods, have a positive effect on how children behave in and outside the classroom.

Compact communities that have houses, mixed with churches, libraries, shops, and services are better than large residential-only communities in terms of the physical and social well-being of their residents.

“This study shows that children in mixed-use communities have better ‘conduct grades’ than children in largely residential blocks. This means they have fewer problems adjusting in their schools, and based on previous research that should result in less conflict at home, and lower rates of drug use and risky social behavior,” according to José Szapocznik, Ph.D., Director of the Center of Family Studies at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, and lead author of the study.

This research was funded by the Substance Abuse Policy Research Program (SAPRP) of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The article appears in the latest online issue of the American Journal of Community Psychology. For a copy of the article, please contact Jeff Haskins at

Drug Use and Public Opinion

Survey of White Americans Finds Choice of Prison over Treatment Related to Attitudes on Race and Morality

A nationally representative survey has found that three-quarters of white Americans prefer drug treatment or probation for persons caught for the first time with 5 grams of cocaine, while one-quarter prefer a prison sentence.

Those who supported a prison sentence were more likely to make moral judgments about the addict and to blame the addict for the addiction. Those who made moral judgments were more likely to deny that racism is a problem and to believe that blacks were more likely than whites to use cocaine.

Researchers conducted the study to examine reasons why some Americans support prison sentences for drug use. They also sought to assess whether public opinion was aligned with current policy and practice which favor incarceration over treatment for drug offenders. The study was the first to empirically test whether racism and moralism influence American attitudes on addressing drug problems.

“In our study, racial attitudes were related to the tendency to blame and morally judge addicts, and those who did so were more likely to support prison sentences,” said study co-author Kenneth Rasinski of the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago.

This research was funded by the Substance Abuse Policy Research Program (SAPRP) of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The article, “Five Grams of Coke: Racism, Moralism and White public Opinion on Sanctions for First Time Possession” appeared in the June issue of the International Journal of Drug Policy. For a copy of the article, please contact Jeff Haskins at

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