Sep 2012

Who Is Minding the Virtual Alcohol Store?

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Department of Health, Behavior, and Society, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth, Baltimore, Maryland.

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2012;166(9):866-868. doi:10.1001/archpediatrics.2012.608

Seventeen years ago, a public health colleague of mine ordered a case of beer over the Internet in his then 10-year-old daughter's name. The case duly arrived, left at the door without any requirement of signature or age verification. ABC News ran the story on national television.

Fast-forward to the current research by Williams and Ribisl,1 and the problem my colleague identified years ago has blossomed like a hothouse flower in a long-forgotten greenhouse. Their search for Internet alcohol vendors found an industry with sales of $2.4 billion per year; using the same methodology previously used to identify a peak of 775 online tobacco vendors, they stopped screening Internet alcohol vendor sites at 5000 owing to budgetary constraints.1 Underage purchases at these sites were far too easy: 45 of 100 attempts were successful.

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