Wine Distributors Responsible for 98% of Minors Drinking

Juanita Duggan, the soon to be former President of the Wine & Spirit Wholesalers Association, is leaving her post with a party shot: A new survey, commissioned by her group of anti-consumer wholesalers, that suggests fully 2% of 14 to 20 year olds in the United States have purchased alcohol online.

According to 2000 census data there were last year somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 Million such minors. That means that around 600,000 minors have purchased alcohol on-line. Let’s presume that those who have succeeded have done so again at a very slight rate. Say, of those 600,000 10% have done so at least one more time, giving us about 660,000 online alcohol transactions by minors.

Now just for kicks, let’s suppose that each transaction comes in at around $30, an amount that is surely a low estimate. That gives us a total of just under $20,000,000 in transactions by minors.

I looked at the survey that was administered (you can find it here in PDF Format). There was something missing. Something that would have put the issue of alcohol and minors in a much more important light. There was no question concerning how minors obtained alcohol.

If we want to understand the problem of minors consuming alcohol, we really should try to understand where they are getting it. If only 2% are obtaining it online, then 98% are getting it elsewhere.

Where would that be?

I’m guessing from a friend and from Mom and Dad’s liquor cabinet come in around #1 and #2. But then there is the brick and mortar stores. Certainly far more alcohol is being purchased by minors at liquor stores with fake IDs.

But you never hear about this from the WSWA? Why is that? Pretty simple. Alcohol purchased at liquor stores is alcohol the wholesalers have already gotten their money out of. The stuff minors are buying at liquor stores was put there by wholesalers who sold it to them. In other words, wholesalers really don’t care about minors who obtain alcohol from liquor stores. So basically, this survey demonstrates that 98% of alcohol that minors consume goes through wine wholesalers’ hands.

However, much of the alcohol purchased online has not gone through wholesalers hands and wholesalers have not make any money on the transaction at any point. That’s a real problem for the WSWA.

So let’s be real blunt about about: Wholesalers and the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America don’t carer about underage drinking. They care about making sure they make money off underage drinking.

That said, and it’s something that needs to be said often, let me offer the take away lines from the USA Today story on this survey:

"A year after the Supreme Court made it easier for wineries to ship
products to customers in a different state, a new survey indicates that
teens haven’t necessarily rushed to use the Internet to buy alcohol, as
critics of the court’s decision have feared

"The survey was commissioned by the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of
America, a trade group that opposed the court’s decision allowing
direct shipments from wineries to customers in different states."

"Tom Riley, spokesman for the White House Office of National Drug
Control Policy, said the survey indicates online alcohol sales to teens
aren’t a major problem
, but he warned that could change."

There is a very simple fix to the issue of online alcohol sales to minors: Age Verification services. There are many effective ones. The other option, if you really want to keep alcohol out of the hands of minors altogether, is a simple one: Prohibition.


6 Responses

  1. Rob Cole - August 10, 2006

    I just saw this over at WineBusiness. At the top they have a link to the USA Today article saying that teens aren’t rushing to the internet to buy alcohol, using this survey as evidence.
    At the bottom of the page, they have a link to an article saying that NBC will air a segment with reps from WSWA using the exact same survey as evidence to prove that “millions” of teens are taking advantage of the new law by buying alcohol online.
    I guess it just goes to show that you can spin anything any way you want.

  2. Rick - August 10, 2006

    This makes the assumption that underage drinkers are trying to buy a bottle of wine.
    I think beers, Mike’s Hard Lemonade, and the like are probably what they’re trying to get their hands on.
    I have yet to see a teenage drinker in any country walking around with a pilfered glass of Pinot they purchased themselves.

  3. St.Vini - August 10, 2006

    Tom: The Wine Institue faxed an email from lovely Juanita yesterday to all members. Call them and get a copy…..Its illuminating…..

  4. Steve-o - August 16, 2006

    Er… correct me if I’m wrong, but it appears to me that the survey reveals no such thing. The survey does not indicate that 2% of teens ***who have obtained alcohol*** did so online. If it did, then your claim that the other 98% got theirs directly or indirectly through the 3-tier system.
    The survey in fact appears to say that 2% of ALL teens surveyed obtained alcohol online. That does not mean that 98% percent of them obtain alcohol from elsewhere.
    Say 10% of responding teens said that they have obtained alcohol in some fashion. Then that 2% figure actually represents 20% of teens who obtain alcohol (and 80% goes to the 3-tier system directly or indirectly). Granted, 10% is way too low. Let’s more realistically say 50% of teens surveyed have obtained alcohol. That actually means of alcohol-obtaining teens 4% of them do it online.
    Still a pretty low number. I’m not disagreeing with you in principle… but it is not accurate to say: “If only 2% are obtaining it online, then 98% are getting it elsewhere” because the first number refers to the whole pool of teens, and the second refers to the subset that drinks.
    Worth pointing out that we’re still talking about a VAST/OVERWHELMING majority of teens obtaining alcohol through traditional means. But we call out WSWA when they use bad statistics, so it’s wise to make sure we’re playing fair, too.

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