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Underage Drinkers Can Easily Order Alcohol From the Internet

FRIDAY, May 18 (HealthDay News) -- Young people can easily buy alcohol on the Internet, where they're also exposed to a wide range of advertising and marketing efforts from the alcohol industry, two new journal articles warn.

A commentary from the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health described the reach of alcohol messages, which may contribute to the 4,700 alcohol-related deaths of drinkers under age 21 in the United States each year.

Also published online May 7 in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, a new study by Rebecca Williams and Kurt Ribisl at the University of North Carolina examined how Internet alcohol vendors verified the age of people buying alcohol online. They found that underage buyers were successful in 45 of 100 such transaction attempts.

"The fact that there are literally thousands of online outlets selling alcohol and that purchase attempts by underage persons are successful almost half of the time tells us how insufficient the protections are for our youth," said commentary author, David Jernigan, director of the Hopkins Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth, in a Hopkins news release.

Alcohol marketers are pushing their brands to young people online through social media such as Facebook, the commentary noted. Jernigan said that at least 14 previous studies have found that the more underage young people are exposed to alcohol advertising, the more likely they are to drink or drink even more.

"The bottom line is that alcohol regulation and enforcement are simply not keeping up with new technologies," he concluded. "Tighter controls on content and better technology to limit underage access are needed to reduce alcohol use among young people."

More information

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has more about alcohol regulation.

-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas

SOURCE: Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, news release, May 7, 2012

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