UNC study looks at online alcohol sales to minors

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

CHAPEL HILL (AP) ó North Carolina researchers want to know how easily teenagers and underage adults can buy alcohol online, so theyíre recruiting students to help find out.
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will begin a $400,000 study later this year to determine if students aged 18 though 20 can buy wine, liquor and beer through Web sites.
Some Web sites appear to require only a mouse click asserting the buyer is at least 21, The News & Observer of Raleigh reported Monday.
ěThey donít do enough to keep underage people from buying,î said Laura Borders, 18, an N.C. School of Science and Mathematics senior who is doing a preliminary survey of sites for the project.
All participants will be under academic and legal supervision. They also will be given immunity by prosecutors.
The study is being run by the same researchers who did a similar study on cigarette sales that helped put a major dent in online sales to minors earlier this decade.
Researchers Rebecca Williams and Kurt Ribisl secured the $400,000, three-year grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to conduct the study by attempting underage purchases from as many as 100 Internet alcohol sellers.
Traci Toomey, who researches underage drinking at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, said online sales may get more traffic from underage buyers as crackdowns continue on store sales to minors.
ěI donít think we should ignore any possible sources of alcohol,î said Toomey. ěIf we shut down one source, underage youth most likely will shift to another source.î
A national survey conducted in 2006 indicated that at least 550,000 minors had bought alcohol online.
ěWe advocate against online access and direct shipping, with access for minors being a primary reason for that,î said Nancy White, spokeswoman for the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America, a trade group that paid for the study.
The winemakers trade group Free the Grapes said consumers should have the right to have wine delivered to their homes. The California-based group said it favors prominent warnings that alcohol should be delivered only to people over 21.
Information from: The News & Observer, http://www.newsobserver.com