That alcohol companies make money off booze consumed by minors isn't surprising. Just how much money might be. CNN reports a study published Thursday in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs found minors drank some $17.5 billion of the beer and liquor sold in 2016. That represents 8.6% of alcohol sales for that year. Those figures were actually down from 2011, the other year that researchers looked at. That year saw youth consume $20.9 billion, or 11.7%, of the alcohol sold. Researchers used CDC data on self-reported adult and underage alcohol consumption and what a press release calls a "landmark study of youth alcohol consumption by brand" to arrive at that figure; they say it's the first time in two decades such a study has been done.
They further determined that beverages from just three companies—AB InBev, Molson Coors, and Diageo—made up 44.7% of what the underage youth consumed in 2016. The researchers' takeaway: The findings present "an opportunity to enact and enforce policies—such as alcohol taxes...— that recover these revenues from the industry and use them to help achieve the goal of preventing youth alcohol consumption." But Paul Gruenewald of the Prevention Research Center of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation says the problem is that isn't in the companies' best interests. "Demand is insured by getting youth to start drinking as early in their lives as possible, providing constant demand throughout the life course." Indeed, as study author Pamela Trangenstein puts it, "There is a clear disconnect when an industry advocates prevention but then makes billions of dollars from prevention's failure." (Read more health study stories.)