Study finds $ 17.5 billion in underage alcohol consumption

The rating for underage drinkers stood at $ 17.5 billion, or 8.6% of alcoholic beverages sold in 2016, according to a new study which showed that alcohol companies AB Inbev, MillerCoors and Diageo captured nearly half of the market for youth alcohol sales.

The study by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Johns Hopkins University and Boston University is one of the few to capture how much money is made through consumption. alcohol among young people. And for the first time, researchers were able to attribute these revenues to specific companies.

The identification of popular alcohol brands reinforces a unique strategy: to use income generated from alcohol sales among young people to support underfunded programs to tackle alcohol use among adolescents. Excessive alcohol consumption is responsible for 3,500 deaths under age 21 each year.

“The alcohol industry said they didn’t want underage drinking, but when we counted the drinks it was clear that they were making billions of dollars from those sales,” said the lead author of the study. Pamela Trangenstein, assistant professor of health behavior at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. “There is a clear lag when an industry advocates prevention, but then earns billions from the failure of prevention. “

Gillings’ behavioral expert led the study published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, with lead study author Raimee Eck, researcher at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Data collected in a landmark report on youth alcohol consumption by brand allowed the authors to calculate the dollar value of youth alcohol consumption in 2011 and 2016. Their findings show that alcohol sales to minors, mainly related to beer consumption, reached $ 20.9 billion in 2011..

While underage consumption has declined in recent years, alcohol remains the most common substance consumed by 12 to 20 year olds in the United States, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“If alcohol companies are really committed to preventing alcohol consumption by young people, they should be willing to pay this income to an independent agency that can tackle underage alcohol use without conflict of interest. “said the study’s co-author. David Jernigan, director of the Center for Alcohol Marketing and Youth at Boston University and health behavior researcher at Johns Hopkins.

The Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council, the scientific advisory body of Congress, made a recommendation in their 2003 report on underage alcohol use to receive 0.05% of the income derived from the consumption of alcohol by minors.

In 2006, Congress unanimously passed the first law solely devoted to reducing underage alcohol consumption. Although this legislation authorized $ 18 million in spending, Congress never spent the full amount. In fact, Congress recently made permanent the tax break given to liquor companies in the 2017 tax cuts.

“Community coalitions in North Carolina and across the country are constantly asking for dollars to support their work on underage alcohol use,” Trangenstein said. “Our study identifies a clear source for this much-needed funding. Families and communities pay the price, while the big liquor companies reap all the benefits. “

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