Summary of Findings: What Teens and Adults are Saying about "Alcopops"

This summary highlights the major findings of two nationally representative telephone studies conducted among 600 Americans teens ages 14 to 18 and among 500 Americans 21 years of age and older. The "Alcopops" polls were conducted by Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates, Inc. for the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

These polls represent a detailed portrait of the attitudes of American teenagers and adults toward "Alcopops," the newer, sweeter alcoholic malt beverages that include the popular brands Mike’s Hard Lemonade, Smirnoff Ice and Doc Otis’ Hard Lemonade. The surveys’ objective was both to measure the awareness and usage of Alcopops among youth and adults and explore the opinions and attitudes of Americans about the marketing of "alcopops" to underage people.

The polls clearly demonstrate that "alcopops" are extremely popular among young people. Teenagers are aware of them, they can cite specific brands, they drink them and they have easy access to them. Teens and adults overwhelmingly believe that "alcopops" are being marketed to underage people and they cite the product attributes of "alcopops," particularly their taste, as the reason they believe underage people are targeted by companies that produce them. There is a consensus among adults that something has to be done. Americans support a wide range of policies that restrict the marketing of "alcopops" to our youth.

The major conclusions of the study are as follows:

  1. Both teens and adults believe that liquor and beer companies target young people with their advertising and that this contributes to underage drinking. These sentiments are stronger among teens than adults.

  2. Both teenagers and adults recognize that "alcopops" are much more popular among underage drinkers than among adults. Teens are three times as likely to be aware of "alcopops" and nearly twice as likely to have tried them.

  3. "Alcopops" appeal to young people because they are sweet, they do no taste like beer or liquor and they are very easy to get. Teens and adults cite those attributes as the reasons they believe "alcopops" are marketed to youth.

  4. "Alcopop" product attributes, especially taste, are the major reasons teens prefer "alcopops" to beer and liquor.

  5. "Alcopops" are a gateway drink because teens say "alcopops" make it more likely that they will try other alcoholic beverages. And adults are worried about drinks that encourage experimentation with alcohol.

  6. Adults are concerned about the marketing of "alcopops" to teenagers and support restrictions on the marketing of "alcopops" to youth.

1. Both teens and adults believe that liquor and beer companies target young people with their advertising and that this contributes to underage drinking. These sentiments are stronger among teens than adults.

Targeting Underage People

Eight in ten (81%) teens and 57% of adults agree that beer and liquor companies target underage drinkers or teenagers with their ads.

  • Teenage girls (87%) and older teens ages 17 to 18 (84%) are more likely to express this sentiment that teenager boys (77%) and younger teens ages 14 to 16 (79%).
  • Adult women (65%) are much more likely than adult men (49%) to believe that companies target underage drinkers.

Advertising Contributes to Underage Drinking

Nearly 8 in 10 (78%) teens and two-thirds of adults (65%) say that alcohol advertising contributes to underage drinking. Younger teens ages 14 to 16 (82%) and teenage girls (82%) are more likely to identify a link between advertising and underage drinking than older teens ages 17 to 18 (72%) and teenage boys (73%). Adult women (65%) are more likely than adult men (61%) to make this connection.

  • Nearly 9 in 10 (86%) teens and 78% of adults agree that companies advertise so that young people will remember the names of their products.
  • Younger people are acutely aware of the role alcohol advertising plays. Greater than 7 in 10 teens believe that beer and liquor companies advertise to not only get young people to start drinking (74%), but also to drink more (78%) so they will be hooked on their products (73%).

2. Both teenagers and adults recognize that "alcopops" are much more popular among underage drinkers than among adults. Teens are three times as likely to be aware of "alcopops" and nearly twice as likely to have tried them.

Over two-thirds of teens (68%) and 72% of adults say that "alcopops" are much more popular among teens than people ages 21 and over. Awareness levels and usage patterns clearly demonstrate that "alcopops" appeal more to underage people than to adults of legal drinking age.

  • Teens (64%) are greater than three times more likely than adults (21%) to have seen, heard or read about "alcopops." Kids of all ages know about "alcopops": the awareness of "alcopops" among teens ages 14 to 16 (62%) is only slightly lower than among teens ages 17 to 18 (65%).
  • Teens are also much more likely than adults to recall brand names of "alcopops." Whereas more than half (52%) of adults who are aware of the existence of "alcopops" can not even name a single brand, brand awareness among teens is very high: Mike’s Hard Lemonade (41%), Smirnoff Ice (31%), Doc Otis’ Hard lemonade (23%), Sublime (20%), One-Eyed Jack (19%), Rick’s Spiked Hard Lemonade (16%) and Hooper’s Hooch (13%).
  • Teens (41%) are nearly twice as likely than adults (24%) to have tried "alcopops." In fact, over half of teens ages 17 to 18 (51%) and over one-third of teens ages 14 to 16 (35%) have tried them.

3. "Alcopops" appeal to young people because they are sweet, they do no taste like beer or liquor and they are very easy to get. Teens and adults cite those product attributes as the reasons they believe "alcopops" are marketed to youth.

A majority of teens and adults say that "alcopops" are marketed to people under 21

When asked what age group "alcopops" were marketed to, a majority of teens (59%) and 66% of adults mentioned either people under the age of 21 (53% of teens and 54% of adults) or all people, including those underage (3% of teens and 6% of adults).

  • Teenage girls (61%) and older teen ages 17 to 18 (66%) are more likely than teenage boys (51%) and younger teens ages 14 to 16 (50%) to say that "alcopops" are marketed to people under 21.
  • Women (67%) are also more likely than men (52%) to say that "alcopops" are marketed to people under 21.

Teens and adults say that "alcopops" are marketed to youth because of their product attributes

There is a strong consensus among teens and adults that companies make "alcopops" taste sweeter than beer and liquor because this is appealing to young people.

  • Nearly 9 in 10 teens (87%) and 67% of adults agree that companies make "alcopops" taste like lemonade to lure young people into trying them.
  • There is strong sentiment among teens and adults that companies make sure "alcopops" do not taste like beer (80% teens and 62% adults) or liquor (77% teens and 68% adults) because they know young people don’t like the taste.

Taste is THE major reason teens try "alcopops." Nearly 9 in 10 or greater of teens cite taste as an important motivator for trying "alcopops":

  • "They taste great" was given as an important reason to try "alcopops" by 86% of teens and nearly half (49%) said it was a very important reason to try them.
  • Eight in ten teens cited "they taste like soda or lemonade" and nearly 8 in 10 (79%) "they have a sweet taste" as important reasons to try "alcopops."

"Alcopops" are easy to get from friends and at parties

After taste, "easy to get" is the second most important reason teens decide to try "alcopops."

  • Eighty-four percent of teens say "they are easy to get" is the major reason teens try "alcopops" and the same percentage say "they are always offered at parties."

More than 8 in 10 teens (83%) say that it would be easy for teens to get "alcopops" if they wanted to and nearly half (46%) said it would be very easy. More than 6 in 10 adults (62%) say they think it would be easy for teens to get "alcopops."

  • Although older teens are more likely to say it is easy to get "alcopops" (89% easy, 55% very easy), nearly 8 in 10 (77%) younger teens ages 14 to 16 say it would be easy for them to get "alcopops;" 4 in 10 (39%) say very easy.

Nearly 6 in 10 teens (59%) say they get alcohol, including "alcopops," from friends. In fact, as testimony to the growing popularity of "alcopops" among young people, 89% of teens say that "hearing other teenagers talking about them" was an important factor in influencing teens to try "alcopops," followed closely by "friends or classmates drink them" (87%) and "see them at parties" (87%). Clearly, teens are regularly exposed to "alcopops."

A disturbing finding of the study is that 1 in 4 (24%) underage people are able to buy "alcopops" at convenience stores.

  • Older teens ages 17 to 18 are three times as likely (38%) to say that teens get alcohol from convenience stores, compared to younger teens ages 14 to 16 (13%).

4. "Alcopop" product attributes, especially taste, are the major reasons teens prefer "alcopops" to beer and liquor.

Teens prefer "alcopops" 2 to 1 over beer

When asked what one type of alcoholic drink they would most prefer to drink, 30% of teens said "alcopops" compared to only 16% for beer and 16% for mixed drinks.

  • Younger teens ages 14 to 16 (33%) and teenage girls (33%) were more likely to express a preference for "alcopops" compared to older teens (25%) and teenage boys (27%). But "alcopops" are the preferred drink of choice for all teens, young and old, male and female.

Teens chose "alcopops" over beer or cocktails because of their product attributes

Over half of teens (52%) say that they and their friends choose "alcopops" over beer or cocktails because of their product attributes: sweet taste (25%), hide the taste of alcohol (17%), and easy to drink (10%).

  • More than 4 in 10 teens (42%) say they prefer "alcopops" because their friends drink them.

5. "Alcopops" are a gateway drink because teens say "alcopops" make it more likely that they will try other alcoholic beverages. And adults are worried about drinks that encourage experimentation with alcohol.

Nearly all teens (90%) agree that Alcopops make it more likely that teenagers will try other alcoholic beverages.

  • Younger teens ages 14 to 16 (87%) are only slightly less likely than older teens ages 17 to 18 (93%) to agree with this sentiment. This is worrisome when one considers that 1 in 3 younger teens ages 14 to 16 have tried "alcopops" and that the drinks are growing in popularity.

Adults are concerned about this issue. Nearly 6 in 10 adults (57%) express concern that Smirnoff, a liquor company famous for its vodka, has introduced Smirnoff Ice and has advertised its product on television.

  • In fact, 2 in 3 adults (63%) agree that Smirnoff is introducing Smirnoff Ice so that underage drinkers will become familiar with their brand name and then move on to trying Smirnoff Vodka.

6. Adults are concerned enough about this issue to support restrictions on the marketing of "alcopops" to youth.

There is strong support among adults to enact policies that restrict the way companies market "alcopops" to protect underage people.

  • More than 8 in 10 adults (84%) support – 69% strongly -- Labeling "alcopops" with clear indications of alcohol content and the quote "THIS IS NOT A SOFT DRINK"
  • More than 7 in 10 adults support – over half strongly – the following:
  • Restrictions on the types of stores "alcopops" can be sold at to make it more difficult for underage persons to buy them (75% support, 57% strongly support).
  • Policies to ensure that "alcopops" are separated from non-alcoholic beverages on store shelves or in store coolers (72% support, 59% strongly support).
  • Policies to ensure that "alcopops" are separated from non-alcoholic beverages on store shelves or in store coolers (73% support, 51% strongly support).

To view further information on "alcopops," click here.

May 2001