Teens Have Easy Time Buying Booze Online

By Valerie Tejeda 05/08/12

An experiment in which underage youths are asked to try to buy alcohol online reveals just how ineffective the system is.

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No need to beg a 21-year-old anymore.
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Underage drinkers have an easy time purchasing alcohol online, according to a new study published by the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill recruited eight young adults—aged 18-20—to participate in a study to test whether they could buy booze online without complications. For purposes of the study, the participants were told to lie about their age when filling out the online order forms, but to admit they were not 21 if they were asked by the delivery person. Around 100 orders were placed online through different websites and deliveries were made by UPS or FedEx. By law, the US Postal Service will not accept shipments of alcohol. The results show that only 28% of orders were denied after the participant's age was revealed, and 45 of the 100 orders were successfully made and received.

“With just a few clicks on their computer or smartphone, kids can order alcohol delivered to their home,” says lead author of the study Rebecca Williams, Ph.D., research associate at UNC’s Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention. “We were amazed at how easy it was for minors to buy alcohol online. Using their real ID and a prepaid Visa card, they could place an order for alcohol in just a few minutes and often have it delivered to their door in a matter of days without anyone ever trying to verify their age.” The researchers partly blame the delivery service providers who failed to check ID’s with 36% of the alcohol purchases being left at the door. “Some packages were left at the door, or handed to recipients after checking an underage identification or simply asking if the person receiving the package was 21. UPS procedures are put in place to reduce the risk that any minors would have access to illegal alcohol,” she says.  “If UPS is involved in deliveries containing alcohol, the delivery person would need to secure an adult signature.”

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Entertainment journalist and author Valerie Tejeda spends her days reporting on books, television, and all things pertaining to pop culture, and spends her nights writing novels for teens. Her stories have appeared on a variety of different publications, including but not limited to: VanityFair, MTV, The Huffington Post, TeenVogue, She Knows, Latina, The Fix, Salon.com, Cosmopolitan, and more. You can find Valerie on Linkedin and Twitter.