Alcohol Companies Earn Billions From Underage Drinking

Underage drinking.
Credit: Rutgers Center of Alcohol & Substance Use Studies

Underage youth consumed $17.5 billion worth, or 8.6 percent, of the alcoholic drinks sold in 2016. Products from three alcohol companies — AB Inbev, MillerCoors and Diageo — accounted for nearly half of youth consumption, according to a new study published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

Data collected in a landmark study of youth alcohol consumption by brand enabled the authors to calculate the first estimate in nearly 20 years of the monetary value of youth alcohol consumption. And for the first time, they were able to attribute those revenues to specific companies.

“The alcohol industry has said they don’t want minors to drink, but when we counted up the drinks, it was clear that they were making billions of dollars from these sales,” said co-lead author Pamela J. Trangenstein, Ph.D., assistant professor of health behavior at the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health. “There is a clear disconnect when an industry advocates prevention but then makes billions of dollars from prevention’s failure.”

Alcohol is the number one drug used among people ages 12 to 20. Although underage consumption has been falling in recent years, alcohol is still responsible for approximately 3,500 deaths per year among people younger than age 21, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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