Report Reveals Minors Easily Buy Booze in NYC Stores

By Zachary Siegel 05/08/15

An investigation found hundreds of liquor stores in NYC make it easy for minors to buy alcohol.

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An undercover investigation led by the New York City Department of Health revealed just how accessible alcohol is for underage consumers. The report found that minors are buying alcohol without obstacle in pharmacies, grocery stores, and liquor stores.

Underage confederates were sent to 911 stores throughout all five boroughs, which accounts for 10% of the city’s stores with liquor licenses. The decoys were able to purchase alcohol in 58% of the stores, according to the health department. That’s over 500 stores where alcohol was able to be purchased.

In a 2013 report from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), roughly 8.7 million (22.7%) people ages 12–20 reported drinking alcohol in the past month. This same report discovered that 5.4 million people between that same age range were engaged in binge drinking.

“What brought [the report] on was our concern that rates of binge drinking and drinking among underage people in New York City has continued to be an issue,” Kunins said to WCBS 880. The investigation was conducted to ameliorate the problem of drinking among young adults.

A letter will be sent to all stores with liquor licenses on Monday, reminding them to check IDs and to make sure employees are trained to avoid selling to underage buyers, said the health department.

The health department will soon be releasing a PSA which reminds parents to take an active role in their children’s lives, for instance, a parent cal report stores that sell liquor to underage buyers.

Training sessions will also be held to help store operators recognize fake IDs. The department recently translated the liquor authority's handbook into Arabic and Chinese, the two most requested languages from store operators.

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Zachary Siegel is a freelance journalist specializing in science, health and drug policy. His reporting has also appeared in Slate, The Daily Beast, Salon, Huffington Post, among others. He writes often about addiction, sometimes drawing from his own experience. You can find out more about Zachary on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.