June 29, 2007
UI Researchers Contributed To Iowa's Keg Registration Law
Summer is a time when young people typically have a little more free time on their hands. It is also a time when opportunities for underage drinking may increase.
As part of an effort to reduce adolescent drinking, Iowa's new keg registration law will require all kegs purchased within the state to be tagged with an identification number. The law, which goes into effect July 1, is intended to discourage adults from providing alcohol to minors by enabling law enforcement officials to trace kegs back to the purchaser.
The legislation follows several years of debate on the issue, during which many Iowa counties adopted similar countywide ordinances to control underage drinking in their local areas. In 2003, researchers with the University of Iowa Prevention Research Center (PRC) assisted Keokuk County in becoming one of the first Iowa counties to adopt such an ordinance.
Directed by John Lowe, UI professor and head of community and behavioral health, the PRC conducts community-based projects aimed at improving the health of rural Iowans. The center has an office in Sigourney, the Keokuk County seat. The center's staff and researchers work closely with a group of local legislators, retailers, school district administrators and other interested residents called the Community Health Action Partnership (CHAP) to identify health concerns and find appropriate interventions. The group cited underage drinking as a leading problem.
"Community members were concerned that drinking seemed to be a rite of passage in Sigourney," said Shellie Striegel, CHAP project manager. "Students felt there was nothing else to do in the community, and car accidents due to underage alcohol consumption were a problem. There was a need for adults to be more accountable for providing alcohol to minors."
Researchers from the PRC searched for information about keg registration and presented it at a meeting attended by community leaders, who decided what parts of the ordinance fit the county's needs. A meeting held in November 2003 gave citizens the chance to become informed and ask questions, and the ordinance went into effect the following January.
"In Keokuk County it was a statement that needed to be made for years," Striegel said. "However, many felt that it needed to be a statewide law before it would make a real impact."
Since Keokuk County adopted its ordinance in 2004, CHAP has served as a resource for other community groups throughout Iowa that were interested in similar legislation. Members of CHAP collaborated with the other coalitions throughout the state for three years to lobby for statewide passage. Before the state law was passed, a total of 27 counties in Iowa had passed keg registration ordinances.
"It is rewarding to see how the initiative of a rural community combined with assistance from a university can help to guide the state to improve the health of all Iowans," said Lowe.
Now that the statewide legislation is in place, the PRC will remain involved in the issue by evaluating the effectiveness of the new law.
The Prevention Research Center is based in the UI College of Public Health and is one of such 33 centers in the United States funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa College of Public Health Office of Communications, 4257 Westlawn, Iowa City, Iowa 52242
MEDIA CONTACT: Kate Gleeson, 319-384-4277, firstname.lastname@example.org; Writer: Brandy Huseman.