Scientific Article
How Did a Lower BAC Limit Affect Bar Trade and Drinking Practices?

Colin Sumpter, Andrea Mohan, Jennifer McKell, James Lewsey, Carol Emslie and Niamh Fitzgerald (email:
Sumpter, C., Mohan, A., McKell, J., Lewsey, J., Emslie, C. and Fitzgerald, N. (2019), How did a lower drink‐drive limit affect bar trade and drinking practices? A qualitative study of how alcohol retailers experienced a change in policy. Drug Alcohol Rev.. doi:10.1111/dar.12999
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    Drug and Alcohol Review
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How Did a Lower Drink‐Drive Limit Affect Bar Trade and Drinking Practices? A Qualitative Study of How Alcohol Retailers Experienced a Change in Policy

Research article


Introduction and Aims

Reducing the legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit to drive from 0.08% to 0.05% BAC can reduce road traffic accidents and deaths if properly enforced. Reduced limits may be opposed by alcohol retail and manufacturing industries on the basis of commercial impact. The aim of this study was to qualitatively explore how a reduction in the BAC level to drive from 0.08% to 0.05% BAC in Scotland, was experienced by bar owners or managers, including any resultant changes in customer alcohol use or business practice. This is the first study of this type.

Design and Methods

Semi‐structured interviews were conducted with 16 owners and managers of on‐trade premises in Scotland in 2018, approximately three years after the BAC limit to drive was reduced. Data were analysed using thematic analysis.


Most participants reported no long‐term financial impact on their business, but a few, mainly from rural areas, reported some reduction in alcohol sales. Observed alcohol use changes included fewer people consuming alcohol after work or leaving premises earlier on weekdays. Adaptations to businesses included improving the range of no/low‐alcohol beverages and food offered. Changes such as these were seen as key to minimising economic impact.

Discussion and Conclusions

Opposition to legislative measures that impact on commercial interests is often strong and receives significant public attention. This study found that Scottish businesses that adapted to the BAC limit to drive change reported little long‐term economic impact. These findings are of international relevance as potential BAC limit reductions in several other jurisdictions remain the subject of debate, including regarding the impact on business.

Source Website: Wiley Online Library