Prevention Science [PREV] pp1182-prev-485274 April 1, 2004 3:30 Style ﬁle version Nov. 04, 2000
Prevention Science, Vol. 5, No. 2, June 2004 (
Tijuana Alcohol Control Policies: A Response to Cross-Border
High-Risk Drinking by Young Americans
Robert B. Voas,
and James E. Lange
Several thousand young Americans visit the bars in Tijuana, Mexico, each weekend night,
raising concerns on both sides of the border. Measures implemented in San Diego, California,
and Tijuana have successfully reduced the number of American visitors to Mexican bars. Al-
though San Diego policies have been well-documented, this is the ﬁrst article on investigation
of measures enacted south of the border. Information on Tijuana alcohol policies was obtained
from a survey of 29–36 bars from 1997 to 1999. The Tijuana police provided data on Americans
arrested in Tijuana from 1998 to 1999. Our study found alcohol regulations are poorly enforced
in Tijuana, suggesting that regulatory agencies are captured by bar owners. However, such a
capture may be weakening. The importance of identifying and supporting Mexican interest
groups, as opposed to the bar owners, as a mechanism to impede the capture of Tijuana’s
regulatory agencies is discussed. The number of Americans involved in alcohol-related crimes
in Tijuana sharply decreased over time. However, such a success is largely related to the suc-
cess of the San Diego efforts in reducing the number of American visitors to Tijuana. Also,
by demonstrating the racial/ethnic heterogeneity of American visitors to Tijuana bars, our
study points out the need for prevention policies designed north of the border to take such
heterogeneity into account.
KEY WORDS: high-risk drinking; binge drinking; Tijuana regulations.
Binge drinking is a serious problem for many U.S.
colleges. Efforts to prevent this problem have been
initiated on most campuses. Weschsler et al., 2000 pro-
vided a systematic list of these preventive practices
that include, among others, limited access and a gen-
eral education about alcohol. Although these mea-
sures aim to deal with the alcohol problem that af-
fects many U.S. campuses, they may not be enough
Paciﬁc Institute for Research and Evaluation, Calverton,
Institute for Public Strategies, National City, California.
San Diego State University, San Diego, California.
Correspondence should be directed to Eduardo Romano, Ph.D.,
Paciﬁc Institute for Research and Evaluation, 11710 Beltsville
Drive, Suite 300, Calverton, Maryland 20705-3102; e-mail:
deterrence for colleges located near the Mexico–U.S.
border. In southern California, not only college stu-
dents, but also many young Americans are enticed
to visit Mexican bars. Because of the lower minimum
legal age for drinking (18 years), inexpensive alco-
hol, the perception of looser law enforcement, and
the promotion of events such as “College Nights”
promising visitors the opportunity of behaving “a lit-
tle crazy” without much supervision, 4,000 to 7,000
young Americans visit the bars of Tijuana’s Zona
Centro each weekend night (Lange & Voas, 2000).
For these border campuses and communities, the suc-
cess of their alcohol-related policies depends to some
extent on policies enacted south of the border.
In San Diego, California, concerns about binge
drinking in Tijuana initiated a community-level pro-
gram called “Operation Safe Crossing,” led by
the Institute for Public Strategies (IPS). This ef-
fort focused on strengthening the enforcement of
2004 Society for Prevention Research