Video: Buying alcohol online easy for teens

By Lea Thompson Chief consumer correspondent
NBC News
updated 8/9/2006 7:35:09 PM ET 2006-08-09T23:35:09

While watching the movie Eurotrip last summer, incoming college freshman Rich DiBella and his buddies had an idea.

"The people in the movie had like this trippy hallucination, [a] weird feeling, and we wanted to see if the drink would give us the same feeling," he says.

The drink was 136-proof absinthe, and so their parents wouldn't find out, the teenagers ordered it online with a Visa gift credit card they got at a local bank.

"It's a lot easier because there's no ID'ing," says DiBella.

According to a new survey to be released Thursday, one in 10 teenagers have an under-aged friend who has ordered beer, wine or liquor over the Internet — more than a third think they can easily do it — and nearly half think they won't get caught.

"There hadn't been the evidence and now we have the evidence," says Juanita Duggan, with the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America.

The survey was paid for by Duggan's trade group, whose members compete against online sales, but clearly there is a problem. Massachusetts, Texas and Virginia have launched undercover investigations of online sales to minors and they all found it very easy to do.

So did NBC News. Two packages were delivered to a state where mail order alcohol is illegal — one was delivered to a 15-year-old who happened to be standing in the front yard, no questions asked. Only one came marked as alcohol. The others came in brown paper wrappers. There is no indication anywhere wine is in one, grain alcohol in the other.

And some online sellers blatantly flaunt the law. One Web site says it ships "discreetly in plain packaging." It warns making absinthe is illegal, but adds: "Don't worry we don't think the Feds will shoot a stun grenade through your window for placing a little online order."

What about those kids and their bottle of absinthe?

"It was just more of getting drunk fast and very, very drunk compared to like a beer or something like that," says Rich DiBella.

But he won't be ordering absinthe again. Not because it's illegal, but because he didn't like the taste.

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