The Problem: Alcohol consumption is a risk factor for many public health harms. Impaired driving is one of the largest contributors to motor vehicle crashes. Each year in the United States roughly 10,500 people die in motor vehicle crashes involving an alcohol-impaired driver. In 2016, over one million people were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics. CDC: Impaired Driving Factsheet.. Alcohol consumption is also a risk factor for cancer and other chronic conditions such as cirrhosis. One established risk factor for excessive alcohol consumption is availability of alcohol at retail. CDC: Alcohol Use Factsheet.
The Law: Sale of alcohol is regulated by states and localities. States have the authority to prohibit or curtail the sale of alcohol consumed off-premises (i.e., excluding bars and restaurants) on Sundays. As of 2019, 20 states have such statutory regulations; 9 states repealed their bans originally enacted previous to 1998; 5 states retain their ban on sales of alcohol; 9 states restricted the hours of operation of alcohol outlets on Sundays; 2 states restrict sales of beverages with alcoholic content of >3.2% on sundays; 30 states placed no limitations on sale of alcohol with respect to Sunday. See Alcohol Policy Information System. For an example of a state law that prohibits sale on Sunday, seeIC 7.1-3-1-14 (Indiana).
The Evidence: An expert panel at the Community Guide systematically reviewed studies assessing the effect of laws banning or limiting the sale of off-premises alcohol on Sundays. Middleton et al, Effectiveness of Policies Maintaining or Restricting Days of Alcohol Sales on Excessive Alcohol Consumption and Related Harms, Am J Prev Med 2010;39(6):575-589. The reviewers identified 14 studies that fit their criteria. Some of the studies evaluated the effect of adoption of laws banning Sunday sales; other evaluated the rescission of such bans. Across the studies, the findings suggested that sale of alcohol on Sunday was associated with increases in one or more alcohol-related harms. The reviewers concluded that there is sufficient evidence to support the conclusion that allowing alcohol sales on Sunday increases consumption of alcohol and motor vehicle crashes. There is also some more limited evidence that increased retail sale on Sunday results in increased rates of assault and domestic disturbance.
The Bottom Line: According to the authors of a Community Guide systematic review, there is compelling evidence to support the effectiveness of laws banning off-premise alcohol sale on Sundays as a means of decreasing alcohol-related injuries.