Brewers and Licensed Retailers Association
UNDER 18's ACCESS TO BOOTLEGGED BEER AND
OTHER ALCOHOL AND BEER DRINKING AND ATTITUDES TO ALCOHOL AMONG
In a first attempt to quantify the extent that
young persons have access to bootlegged beer and other alcohol,
the BLRA commissioned a telephone survey of young persons, aged
15 to 17, across England and Wales. The main findings are:
46 per cent of 15 to 17 year olds
say they can buy beer locally from an illegitimate sourceeither
from a friend or other contact (40 per cent), from somebody's
house or garage (24 per cent), or from somebody's van or car (6
The proportions are similar across
all regions and by social class, indicating that access to bootlegged
beer is not just restricted to inner city areas in certain parts
of the country.
A higher proportion of 15 year olds
(56 per cent) than 17 year olds (33 per cent) say they can buy
beer locally from an illegitimate source. This suggests that the
further away young persons are from being able to buy beer legally,
the more likely they are to turn to illegitimate sources.
10 per cent of 15 to 17 year olds
admit they have actually bought beer from an illegitimate source.
Teenagers are not necessarily aware that beer
purchased from an illegitimate source will usually have originated
Of those that say they have bought
beer from an illegitimate source, less than half (47 per cent)
thought this beer had come from abroad.
However, 69 per cent of those who
have bought beer from an illegitimate source say it was cheaper
than in the shops, and a further 23 per cent say it was about
the same price. Clearly this would not be the case if the beer
had originally been purchased in the UK.
Finally, to clarify further, respondents were
specifically asked about alcohol (not just beer) that had been
brought back from abroad.
37 per cent of young persons say
they can buy alcohol from a friend or contact that has been brought
back from abroad. Again there is no significant difference between
The survey gave the opportunity to explore some
more general issues regarding under-age drinking and it is acknowledged
that the following findings raise issues for the alcoholic drinks
industry, in particular regarding the need for a single proof
of age card.
90 per cent of 15-17 year olds have
tried alcohol, with beer the drink most have tried (80 per cent),
followed by wine (73 per cent), and spirit mixed drinks (72 per
One in four (26 per cent) respondents
drink beer at least once a week and just over a half (52 per cent)
drink beer at least monthly. Young males on average drink beer
twice as often as young females.
Young people who drink beer are most
likely to drink beer with friends their own age (75 per cent)
followed by with family/other relatives (54 per cent).
53 per cent of 15-17 year olds say
it is easy for them to buy beer if they want to, although only
27 per cent say they have actually bought beer themselves. Not
surprisingly, 17 year olds are more likely to have bought beer
(40 per cent), than 15 year olds (21 per cent).
The off-licence is the place most
respondents have bought beer from (22 per cent), followed by the
pub (21 per cent), and disco or night-club (19 per cent). Again
this varies considerably by age.
Finally, regarding attitudes to alcohol
Although 90 per cent of 15-17 year
olds say that lots of people their age drink alcohol, only 30
per cent say that drinking alcohol is exciting, and only 16 per
cent say they would feel out of place if they didn't drink alcohol.
60 per cent agree that drinking alcohol is just part of a good
1. Background and Methodology
There have been many concerns in the last few
years, that the huge flood of personal imports of alcohol from
France into the UK, both legal and illegal, has meant increased
access to alcohol amongst under 18's. Clearly bootleggers (anyone
buying alcohol abroad and selling it on in the UK without paying
UK taxes) are less likely to be concerned about the age of those
they are selling to than legitimate licensed premises would be.
The Government acknowledge this to be a problem but until now
no attempt has been made to quantify the scale of the problem.
It was for this reason the BLRA commissioned
leading independent market research agency MRSL, to try and assess
the extent bootlegged alcohol (and particularly beer) is available
to young people. A representative sample of 501 young people between
the ages of 15 to 17 in nine cities and towns across England and
Wales were interviewed between 24 November and 6 December 2000.
The study also gave an opportunity to explore a few broader issues
associated with beer drinking among young people and their attitude
to, and experience of, drinking and buying alcohol.
The methodology decided upon was a 10 minute
confidential interview by telephone, with the questionnaire designed
to facilitate honesty and not to be leading in any way. Control
questions were added (eg about smoking) that could be checked
against known behaviour of 15 to 17 year olds to ensure the sample
was representative of the population as a whole. There were also
some interesting findings between the different age groups, gender,
social class, and different parts of the country, but due to the
constraints of the overall sample size, these findings need to
be treated with caution.
Questions were asked regarding alcohol in general
and more specifically about beer. Findings that may at first appear
to be conflicting are because of this. Also many teenagers would
not necessarily know where the alcohol they had access to had
originated from. This needed bearing in mind when designing the
questionnaire and considering the results.
2. Results and Main Findings
The main findings are split into two sections.
Each section contains the main findings (in boxes), the questions
asked and responses given, and any further explanation required.
The first section specifically examines under 18's access to bootlegged
beer/alcohol, and the proportion who admit they have bought beer/alcohol
from an illegitimate source. The second section considers more
general drinking behaviour among under 18'sfocussing mainly
on beer, and attitudes to alcohol. It should be remembered that
despite the confidentiality of the survey, some findings may be
understated, as some 15-17 year olds may still not admit to buying
and drinking alcohol.
2.1 Access to bootlegged beer/alcohol
46 per cent of 15 to 17 year olds stated they could buy beer in their area from an illegitimate source, and 10 per cent stated they had done so.
There was no significant difference between different parts of the country or social class.
Awareness of where beer could be bought from illegitimately was higher among 15 year olds than 17 year olds.
Q: If you wanted to buy some beer in your area, which of
the following places could you go and buy it?
||Midlands ||Wales & West
Q: Please tell me which of the following places you have
bought beer before?
It is possible that not all beer bought from an illegitimate
source is beer bootlegged from abroad. However, there would appear
to be little financial incentive to buy beer in the UK and then
sell it on illegitimately. This is borne out by the next finding.
69 per cent of those 15-17 year olds that had bought beer from an illegitimate source stated it was cheaper than in the shops, and a further 23 per cent said that it was about the same price.
Q: How much did this beer cost you compared to beer sold
in the shops? Was it...?
To further clarify the situation, all respondents were then
given a series of attitude statements, three of which related
to bootlegged alcohol (not specifically beer).
37 per cent of 15-17 year olds said they could buy alcohol that had been brought back from abroad from a friend or other contact.
Q: Do you agree or disagree with the following statements?
|All respondents (n=501)||Agree
|It is possible for me to buy alcohol that has been brought back from abroad from a friend or other contact
|It is possible for me to buy alcohol locally from somebody's house or garage
|It is possible for me to buy beer locally from somebody's van or car
The proportion of 15-17 year olds who could buy alcohol from
somebody's house/garage and van/car (30 per cent and 11 per cent
respectively), were higher than when asked specifically about
beer (24 per cent and 6 per cent). Clearly the different phrasing
of the questions may have affected the responses, but also as
alcohol will include wine, spirits and other drinks, slightly
higher figures would be expected.
The response to buying alcohol from a friend or contact may
at first appear contradictory to this, as the proportion is slightly
less (37 per cent), than for those who could buy beer locally
from a friend or other contact (40 per cent). However, in this
question, it specifically asks about alcohol that has been brought
back from abroad. The responses suggest that 15-17 year olds are
not always aware where bootlegged beer/alcohol they are buying
has originated from. This is not surprising as BLRA undercover
surveillance has revealed that it is mainly brands that are also
sold legitimately in the UK that are smuggled in to the UK from
abroad by bootleggers.
This is also backed up by the final finding relating to bootlegged
Under half of those who had bought beer from an illegitimate source, thought it had been brought back from abroad (this is despite 69 per cent stating it was cheaper than in the shops).
Q: Do you know where this beer originally came from?
Is it (a) brought back from abroad by someone and then sold on,
or, (b) bought in the UK by someone and then sold on?
All those who had bought beer from an illegitimate source, (n
Note: The fact that 15 per cent answered "don't know"
despite this not being an option read out, suggests that others
will have assumed "bought in the UK" without actually
These findings give a clear indication that under 18's access
to bootlegged beer/alcohol is a very real and widespread problem.
However, as many bootlegged brands are also sold legitimately
in the UK, young people will often not realise this alcohol has
been smuggled from abroad.
2.2 Alcohol, beer drinking, and young people
Ninety per cent of 15-17 year olds have tried alcohol, the drink most likely to have been tried was beer80 per cent, followed by wine73 per cent, and spirit mixed drinks (Bacardi Breezers etc)72 per cent.
Q: Have you ever tried alcohol?
|All respondents (n=501)||Age
Q: What sort of alcohol have you tried?
|Have tried . . . (n=501)||All
|Spirit Mixed Drinks||72%
A significantly higher proportion of males have tried beer,
and a significantly higher number of females have tried spirit
mixed drinks, alcopops, and wine. Seventeen year olds were more
likely to have tried spirit mixed drinks, alcopops, and spirits
than 15 year olds.
26 per cent of 15-17 year olds drink beer at least once a week, and 52 per cent at least once a month. Males drink beer on average twice as often as females.
Q: Which of the following categories best describes how
often you drink beer?
(all respondents n=501)
|Every Day||4-6 times a week
||2-3 times a week
||Once a week||Once a fortnight
||Once a month||Less than monthly
15-17 year olds are most likely to drink beer with friends their own age, followed by with family members, and then with friends older than themselves.
Q: When you drink beer, who are you usually with?
Just over one in five (21 per cent) of 15 year olds have bought beer themselves. This almost doubles to 40 per cent for 17 year olds. Overall 27 per cent said they had bought beer themselves.
Q: Have you ever bought beer yourself?
proportion who have bought beer themselves
The off-licence was the place 15-17 year olds were most likely to have bought beer from, followed by the pub, and then a night-club or disco.
There was considerable variation by age.
(see also graph in section 2.1)
Q: Please tell me which of the following places you have
bought beer before?
|All respondents (n = 501)
|Night-club or disco||19%
|Sports or social club||9%
|Illegitimate source (see 2.1)||10%
Finally, respondents were asked whether they agreed or disagreed
with a series of statements about alcohol (see also 2.1).
Despite the high prevalence of drinking alcohol among 15-17 year olds, many "would appear to have" quite a responsible attitude towards alcohol.
Q: Do you agree or disagree with this statement?
|Proportion who agreed with statement
|All respondents (n = 501)||
|Lots of people my age drink alcohol||90%
|Drinking alcohol is exciting||30%
|I would feel out of place if I didn't drink alcohol
|Drinking alcohol is just part of a good night out
. . . and finally relating to access to alchohol:
|Proportion who agreed with statement
|All respondents (n = 501)||Age
|It is easy for me to buy alcohol if I want to
|It is easier for me to buy alcohol from my local shop than from an off-licence or supermarket
|If I want to drink alcohol I just go to the pub
|Brewers' and Licensed Retailers' Association