Aims: This study aimed to fill information gaps about the sales and marketing practices of internet alcohol vendors and their implications for addressing youth access and other legal violations. Further, it aimed to expand the limited scientific literature on internet alcohol sales using systematic survey methods to inform future efforts to regulate this industry and prevent sales to minors.
Design: The design was a cross-sectional website content analysis survey.
Setting: [Not applicable].
Participants: A total of 105 internet alcohol vendor websites.
Measurements: Six key content analysis topics were explored: products offered, average prices and proportions of vendors using different promotions, policy statements and methods for age verification, payment and delivery.
Findings: Websites sell and promote a variety of alcohol products, offered as cheaply as $1.93 for a 750-ml bottle. Vendors rely heavily upon age verification methods that are unlikely to prevent sales to minors. Many vendors advertise shipping of products via methods through which it is illegal or against delivery company policies to transport alcohol, and 99% of vendors accept credit cards. Limiting and enforcing delivery and payment options are types of policy interventions that have been used successfully with internet cigarette vendors that may be applicable to internet alcohol vendors as well.
Conclusions: Internet alcohol vendor practices are insufficient to prevent sales to minors, and need further regulation and enforcement of existing policies. Their sales practices are similar to those of internet cigarette vendors prior to regulation, and similar regulatory approaches may be effective in reducing internet alcohol sales to minors.
Keywords: Alcohol; cigarettes; internet; policy; tobacco; youth access.
© 2013 Society for the Study of Addiction.