Have you ever been to a major event on a hot day and found bottles of water being sold for $5, $8 or even $10 dollars? Unfortunately this scenario plays out far too often at public events across southern California, with significant impacts to public health and safety.
The City of Pasadena is in the midst of adding another major public event to the region with concert promoter AEG/Goldenvoice. While event details have yet to be determined, the proposed “Rose Bowl Music and Arts Festival” would take place annually every June and accommodate about 95,000 music fans a day for two to three days. The proposal is driven by the high cost of the stadium renovation, as well as the economic benefits major events bring to local hotels and other service sector businesses. Yet such a major event also presents unique public health and safety challenges to the surrounding neighborhoods, community and region.
A basic law of economics states that when products become more expensive, people tend to purchase less of them. This basic principle holds true for water, alcohol and other beverages. In other words, if you are a community and want to incentivize safer, healthier behavior among event attendees, bottled water should always be the cheapest item on concession stand menus, followed by other non-alcoholic beverages, and then beer, wine, and if sold, distilled spirits. Tap water should also be made available free of charge via the use of temporary water stations and/or permanent water fountains.
Why? The risks associated with binge drinking at large events are many, and include increased rates of impaired driving, motor vehicle crashes, accidents, and physical and sexual violence. In the worst case scenarios such alcohol misuse can lead to permanent injury or death, as in the tragic beating of Giants fan Bryan Stowe at Dodgers stadium in 2011. Every year alcohol use kills about 2,500 people in Los Angeles County, making alcohol the number two cause of preventable death in the region.
Young people are particularly sensitive to price and research shows that even modest price increases can significantly reduce the rates of heavy drinking and impaired driving crashes involving youth.[i] Existing research also underlines that alcohol price policies are among the most effective strategies available for reducing risky alcohol consumption and related harm and costs.
As City of Pasadena and stadium staff move forward with formal study of a “family-friendly” festival at the Rose Bowl stadium, officials would be wise to closely examine and mitigate the impacts of alcohol use, as well as improve the accessibility, convenience, and promotion of transportation alternatives as the Hollywood Bowl has successfully done over the years. It may seem inconsequential, but free tap water, $2 bottled waters, $10 beers and comfortable event shuttles make large events safer and healthier for the entire community
[i] 25Laixuthai, A. & Chaloupka, F. (1993). Youth alcohol use and public policy. Contemporary Policy Issues, 11:70-81.
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