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Current licensing practices may have contributed to an increase in “pre-loading” among young people

The policy implications of “pre-loading” are discussed in a recent issue of Addiction.

“Pre-loading”, also called “front-loading” or in America, “pre-drinking”, involves planned heavy drinking, usually at someone’s home, before setting out to a social event. The authors argue that the banning of drink promotions such as having a “happy hour” and later opening times may have contributed to what they claim is a “common and celebrated practice among young adults around the world.”

To discourage or reduce pre-loading, authors Samantha Wells, Kathryn Graham and John Purcell suggest a comprehensive strategy including:

  • Developing policies that reduce large imbalances between on and off premise alcohol pricing. Attracting young people of legal drinking age back to the bar for early drinking, where alcohol consumption is monitored by serving staff and drinks are served in standard sizes

  • Addressing young people’s motivations for pre-drinking, including being able to socialize with friends and saving money – for example bars might expand their social function and create an attractive atmosphere for more intimate socialising

  • Forming effective strategies to reduce planned intoxication – for example policy and programming could be aimed at changing drinking norms and promoting moderation.

The research paper can be found here.

A separate commentary on the issue is provided by Robin Room and Michael Livingstone, here, and a reply by the authors is here.