MYTH: Minors use direct-to-consumer wine shipment to obtain alcohol illegally.
FACT: Multiple national studies, evidenced youth behavior and other states’ experience show that this argument is baseless.
One argument against direct shipment is that it allegedly undermines the State’s ability to police underage drinking. Advocates of this position claim that minors, who have easy access to credit cards and the Internet, will use direct shipment as a means to illegally obtain wine. Multiple national studies, evidenced youth consumer behavior and enforcement data from 35 states show that this argument is without merit.
A study conducted by the Federal Trade Commission found that there have been no reported problems with minors abusing direct shipment in the states that allow it.1 This study gives three reasons why minors don’t use direct shipment as a source of alcohol. First, minors are less likely to consume wine, as opposed to other beverages such as beer and hard liquor. Second, minors have more easy and direct means of obtaining alcohol. Third, minors as a group are more likely to desire instant gratification which makes the time delay of direct shipment an unattractive avenue for obtaining alcohol.
Another study conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that the internet and direct shipment are not a source that youth generally consider when attempting to obtain alcohol.2 Out of a sample of almost 340,000 alcohol-drinking minors interviewed about the sources of their alcohol, none reported using either the Internet or direct shipment to obtain alcohol.
Even the Supreme Court of the United States has rejected this, saying that such arguments are made as 'unsupported assertions'.3
Direct-to-consumer shipping is legal in 35 states and the District of Columbia4 which comprise 81% of Americans; yet none of these jurisdictions have noticed widespread abuse of their shipping policies. There have been at most a handful of enforcement actions taken against common carriers (UPS, FedEx) for failure to check ID when delivering an alcohol-labeled package – one case in New Hampshire resulted in the FedEx driver being fired. Moreover, carriers contractually require winery or retail stores to purchase the signature verification feature, at additional cost, before taking on a new alcohol shipping customer.
Maryland’s proposed direct shipment bill would require carriers delivering wine to utilize a recipient-verification service that confirms that the buyer is of legal age just like in these other jurisdictions. This service is strictly enforced by both FedEx and UPS and provides the same, if not better, safeguards against the sale of alcohol to minors as those employed in retail stores.
- Possible Anticompetitive Barriers to E-Commerce: Wine, Federal Trade Commission Report, July 2003.
- Underage Alcohol Use: Findings from the 2002-2006 National Surveys on Drug Use and Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services - Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Office of Applied Studies Report, June 2008.
- Granholm v. Heald, 544 U.S. 460 (2005)
- Wine Institute’s State Shipping Laws database (May 24, 2009).