The Economic Value of Underage Drinking and Adult Excessive Drinking to the Alcohol Industry | CASAColumbia

The Economic Value of Underage Drinking and Adult Excessive Drinking to the Alcohol Industry

The Economic Value of Underage Drinking and Adult Excessive Drinking to the Alcohol Industry

Published: February 2003

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Background

The alcohol industry makes millions of dollars each year from underage drinkers and adults who drink excessively. The economic reality of the alcohol industry is that it must maintain or increase alcohol consumption if it is to ensure future profits. This means that the industry must continually attract new drinkers as current drinkers quit or die. Drinking during the teen years increases the chances of alcoholism later in life.

Methods

To estimate consumer expenditures linked to underage drinking and adult excessive drinking, CASAColumbia examined alcohol industry data on consumption and expenditures for alcohol by type of beverage, as well as research documenting the types and proportions of beverages consumed by underage drinkers and adult excessive drinkers.

Results

Underage drinking poses a serious problem to teens’ health. Research has shown that those who began drinking before the age of 21 were more than twice as likely to develop alcohol-related problems compared to those who began drinking at age 21 or older. The incidence of lifetime alcohol abuse or dependence was greatest for those who began drinking between the ages of 11 and 14. 

This report found that underage drinking accounted for nearly 20% of the alcohol consumed in the U.S., and adult excessive drinking accounted for another 30%.  The study revealed that adult excessive drinkers accounted for 9% of drinkers but 46% of the total alcohol consumed. Underage drinking accounted for $22.5 billion in alcohol sales, and adult excessive drinking accounted for $34.4 billion in alcohol sales, which together constitute nearly half of total U.S. consumer expenditures for alcohol.

Recommendations

The significant revenues from underage drinkers and adult excessive drinkers create an insurmountable conflict of interest with respect to curbing consumption of alcohol in the U.S. This report includes recommendations for parents, policymakers, educators and prevention experts. These recommendations include holding parents legally responsible for their underage children’s alcohol use, prohibiting all alcohol ads from appearing on television and funding addiction treatment programs for adolescents.

A Note on the Language
In 2012, CASAColumbia stopped using words like “drug abuse”/“drug abuser” because the terms have negative connotations. Instead, we now distinguish between “addiction” (clinical criteria for the disease) and “risky use” (use of addictive substances in ways that increase the risk of harm but do not meet criteria for addiction). Some reports and other publications published prior to 2012 still contain this outdated language.

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