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million drinks per month, or 19.7 percent of the total alcohol consumed. As discussed in Chapter 2, the estimation procedure used in that study is subject to a number of criticisms, and the committee calculates that the proportion is likely somewhere between 10 and 20 percent.

Based on their quantity estimates, Foster et al. (2003) estimated the expenditures by underage drinkers for beer, spirits, and wine, and concluded that underage drinkers spent $22.5 billion, or 19.4 percent of total consumer expenditures for alcohol. (It is lower than the proportion of consumption because youths are more likely to consume beer, a lower-priced beverage.) As explained in Chapter 2, we think this revenue estimate is a bit high because underage drinkers probably spend less per drink than do adults for a variety of reasons: most important is the fact that most of the drinks consumed by underage youths are off premise, originally purchased in the form of bottles, kegs, or six-packs, rather than from restaurants and bars, and the average price for on-premise sales is probably three or four times as high as off-premise sales. Whatever the precise amount, however, it is highly likely that underage drinking accounts for a significant proportion of the alcohol market, especially for beer.


In recognition of the high prevalence of underage and illegal drinking, the alcohol industry has declared its collective support of the 21-year-old minimum drinking age and has undertaken efforts to discourage alcohol use by underage youths. Various industry-sponsored initiatives and programs have been implemented with the stated objectives of reducing underage drinking and promoting responsible or moderate drinking among adults.1 The Beer Institute, the national trade association for the nation’s brewers, reported that the beer industry has “committed hundreds of millions of dollars to create effective anti-underage drinking programs.”2 For example, Anheuser-Busch and its wholesalers have “invested more than $375 million [time period not specified] to implement alcohol awareness programs to fight drunk driving, help retailers spot fake IDs, and encourage parents to talk with their kids about drinking.”


For brief descriptions of some of the industry-sponsored activities, see;;;;; and


Quotations included in this section are based on materials submitted to the committee by various industry organizations; they are available in the public access file for this committee at the National Academies.

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