While the laws controlling the sale of alcohol online have been significantly tightened in recent years, the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth (CAMY) says it is still far too easy for underage kids to purchase.
Authors Rebecca Williams and Kurt Ribisl at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill recently studied the ease with which underage youth can buy alcohol on the internet. During the study, Ribisl and Williams had a number of underage teenagers try to purchase various kinds of alcohol from numerous online retailers using prepaid gift cards. The results were surprising.
In 45 of 100 attempts, the teens participating in the study were successful at making the purchase. Of those successful attempts, 51% of retailers did not use any form of age verification.
According to CAMY, alcohol is the most widely used drug among young people in the United States. Each year, more than 4,700 underage youth die from alcohol-related deaths.
Some of the blame goes to the shipping companies. FedEx and UPS were used in this study and both say that they have policies in place to prevent the transfer of alcohol to minors.
"Some packages were left at the door, or handed to recipients after checking an underage identification or simply asking if the person receiving the package was 21," said Rebecca Williams, the study's lead author at a research associate at the University of North Carolina Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention in Chapel Hill.
A 2011 report from CAMY documented how hundreds of online alcohol retailers utilize sites like Facebook to reach underage youth with advertisements and other targeted content. CAMY researchers found that the 10 leading alcohol brands have almost 6.7 million people "liking" their Facebook pages.
CAMY also says that at least 14 studies have proven that the more young people are exposed to alcohol advertising and marketing, the more likely they are to drink, or if they are already drinking, to drink more.
The bottom line, says CAMY, is that far stricter regulations need to be put into place immediately.
Do you know what your kids are doing online?