What do you know about online alcohol sales?  I must admit that I knew little about this industry and was amazed with some of the statistics I recently discovered while reading an article in the September 2012, Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. If you are a parent of a tween or teen, here is another topic for discussion and for monitoring as well. 

According to this study that was done in 2011 out of the University of North Carolina there are greater than 5,000 internet alcohol venders (IAV), and there is little regulatory attention being paid to this 2.4 billion /year industry.  It seems that another place for teens to purchase alcohol while underage is no longer just the corner liquor store, or grocery.  In many communities it is much becoming more difficult for minors to purchase alcohol as there seems to be a push to improve enforcement by“carding” any one under the age of 30.  I find this to be true in our area as I watch my 28 year-old married son have to produce his ID. (regretfully they no longer ask for mine!) 

In this study 45 of 100 internet alcohol purchase (done by students age 18-20) attempts were successful and the alcohol (predominately wine, but beer and liquor as well) were successfully received by underage buyers. There was very little age verification at point of order, with some of the orders being processed using a parents birthdate or by simply checking a box stating that “buyer is over 21 years of age.”   All of the orders in the study were for less than $100 and were made using prepaid gift cards that are difficult to track. Teens are savvy and are will buy a card with cash and then they do not have to worry about parents tracking credit card purchases. 

Age verification at time of delivery was also inconsistent. Even when packages were shipped and labeled “age verification at delivery” half of the time the package was still delivered to a minor.  In some cases the alcohol was delivered to a neighbor who then handed it off to the minor, with the neighbor not paying any attention to what was in the box. (this seems like an easy thing to miss as I often receive packages for my neighbors, sign and then put them on their porch). 

So, it is hard to stay ahead of tech savvy teens and with little regulation underage internet alcohol sales may continue rise.  I guess the good news is that this takes a bit of pre planning on the part of adolescent, but with a little notice and a pre paid gift card a party a few weeks out may be easier to pull off than heading to the local liquor store on a Friday night.