Stop adults from giving alcohol to minors
Paul Robbins • Guest essayist • June 11, 2008
Ending underage drinking is critically important — even to those of us who sell alcohol for a living. In New York,
where our underage drinking rates are consistently 3 percentage points higher than the national average, we need
to pay close attention to this issue.
I am a Rochester resident and I speak on behalf of my employer, Diageo, the world's leading spirits, wine and beer
company, when I say that we do not want the business of anyone under the age of 21. Period.
Diageo is a company of families and is committed to both helping in the fight against underage drinking and
promoting the responsible use of beverage alcohol for adults 21 and older.
Fortunately, underage drinking is on the decline nationally. The University of Michigan's annual Monitoring the
Future survey on underage drinking shows that teen drinking has declined steadily since the mid-1990s and
underage drinking is at its lowest level since 1975. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, Monitoring the
Future is the largest and most significant survey of youth drinking among eighth-, 10th- and 12th-grade students
The Monitoring the Future study found that the number of eighth-graders who reported drinking an alcoholic
beverage at least once in the 30 days prior to the survey has fallen by 40 percent since peaking in 1996. The
study's authors hypothesize that the decline may reflect their decreasing access to alcohol.
Any access to alcohol by underage drinkers is too much, and it is critical to recognize that the key to keeping alcohol
away from kids is targeting their No.1 source of alcohol: adults.
A study by The Century Council, a nonprofit organization dedicated to fighting underage drinking, found that 65
percent of teens who drink obtain the alcohol from adult relatives and friends. Recognizing that the key to reducing
underage drinking lies in restricting teens' access to alcohol, Diageo has supported legislation in New York state,
just as it has in more than 20 states across the country, that calls for suspending the driver's license of any adult
who knowingly furnishes alcohol to minors. Unfortunately that legislation did not become law in New York state, but
we continue to work with lawmakers to craft effective alcohol policy.
Legislation is just one way to combat this complex, multifaceted problem. If we have any chance of ending underage
drinking — which I believe we do — we all need to work collaboratively toward a solution-oriented approach. Let's
focus on the real issue: taking responsibility for keeping alcohol out of the hands of our kids.
Robbins is the Market Director for Upstate New York for Diageo North America.