Sweet danger: public links alcopops, underage drinking

April 6, 2009 Volume 6 Issue 2
  • Over one-half of adults believe alcopops promote underage drinking.
  • Three-quarters of adults say underage drinking is a problem in their communities.
  • 9 in 10 adults support alcohol warning labels for alcopops.
  • 4 in 5 adults support banning alcopop ads from youth websites and magazines.

Alcopops, also known as flavored alcoholic beverages, are sweet alcoholic drinks that look and taste like soda pop, tea, punch and lemonade. Labels on alcopops can be confusing, and consumers may not understand that these beverages contain alcohol.

Even though many alcopops contain distilled liquor, most states classify alcopops as “malt beverages,” similar to beer. This designation allows them to be advertised widely, including online, and sold in a greater number of retail locations than drinks with higher alcohol content.

The C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health asked a national sample of adults about their opinions on underage drinking and alcopops.

Concerns with Underage Drinking & Alcopops

Underage drinking is a concern among the majority of adults. 75% of adults believe that underage drinking is a big problem or somewhat of a problem in their own communities.

Many adults are also concerned that alcopops may encourage underage drinking. 52% of adults believe that alcopops definitely or probably promote underage drinking. 35% of adults believe that alcopops may promote underage drinking and 13% think definitely not.

Support for Stricter Laws Regarding Alcopops

Adults express widespread support for stricter laws regarding alcopops. Requiring alcopops to have an alcohol warning label received the greatest support, with more than 9 out of every 10 adults in favor. Banning alcopop ads from youth websites and magazines also received strong support, followed closely by banning billboards for alcopops within 500 feet of schools, public parks and amusement parks (Figure 1).

Fewer adults — but still more than one-half — favor banning alcopop ads on television during prime time (59%), prohibiting alcopops from sponsoring college sporting events (58%) and limiting television ads for alcopops during sporting events (57%, Figure 1).


Underage drinking remains a concern for the majority of American adults. Alcopops—with their enticing branding and sweet tastes—are potentially attractive to youth drinkers.

Adults’ level of concern about underage drinking explains, to a large extent, their very strong support for many potential new restrictions on alcopops. This poll indicates widespread support for initiatives that are being considered by some state legislatures, including new alcohol warning labels on alcopop containers and bans on alcopop advertising in youth media.

Child health advocates who support legislation regarding alcopops will want to galvanize the current strong public support for their cause. Parents who want more information on underage drinking can get help from health care professionals or through the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, at www.drugfree.org.

Data Source

This report presents findings from a nationally representative household survey conducted exclusively by Knowledge Networks, Inc, for C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital via a method used in many published studies. The survey was administered in January 2009 to a randomly selected, stratified group of adults aged 18 and older (n=2,100) with and without children from the Knowledge Networks standing panel that closely resembles the U.S. population. The sample was subsequently weighted to reflect population figures from the Census Bureau. The survey completion rate was 64% among panel members contacted to participate. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 2 to 4 percentage points, depending on the question.

C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health
Director: Matthew M. Davis, MD, MAPP
Associate Director: Sarah J. Clark, MPH
Manager & Editor: Dianne C. Singer, MPH
Data Analyst: Amy T. Butchart, MPH

This Report includes research findings from the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health, which do not represent the opinions of the investigators or the opinions of the University of Michigan. The University of Michigan reserves all rights over this material.

All Respondents Age ≥ 21

This set of questions is on flavored alcoholic beverages.

In the past few years, beverage companies have developed several types of flavored alcoholic beverages, which contain pre-mixed alcohol (“spirits”) plus fruit juice or soda. Sometimes these drinks are called alcopops or malt beverages.  Examples include Mike’s Hard Lemonade, Smirnoff Ice, and Bacardi Breezers.

Some groups have argued that flavored alcoholic beverages (FABs) hide the taste of alcohol and thus are more appealing to young people under 21 years of age. 

1. Do you think flavored alcoholic beverages (FABs) promote underage drinking?

  • definitely
  • probably
  • maybe
  • definitely not

2. How does the alcohol content of flavored alcoholic beverages (FABs) compare to beer?

  • higher than beer
  • about the same as beer
  • lower than beer

Some states have proposed legislation related to flavored alcoholic beverages (FABs), to avoid marketing to youth.

3. Please indicate whether or not you support the following:

Please check one box in each row

  Support Do not support
Require that FABs have a label, WARNING: THIS PRODUCT CONTAINS ALCOHOL    
Ban TV ads for FABs during prime time    
Limit TV ads for FABs during sporting events    
Prohibit FABs from sponsoring college sporting events    
Ban billboards for FABs within 500 ft of a school, public park, or amusement park    
Ban FAB ads from websites primarily used by youth    
Ban FAB ads from magazines with a large youth readership    

4. In general, how much of a problem is underage drinking in your community?

  • A big problem
  • Somewhat of a problem
  • Not much of a problem
  • Not a problem at all

Participants were also asked demographic questions on age, gender, health status, annual household income, education, race/ ethnicity, health insurance status and the presence of children in the household. Parents were also asked questions regarding child(ren)’s age, gender, and health status.

All information is the sole property of the University of Michigan CS Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health.  It can only be used if there is an acknowledgment that "The information came from, is copyright by and is owned by and belongs to the Regents of the University of Michigan and their C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health. It cannot be republished or used in any format without prior written permission from the University."

C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health
Director: Matthew M. Davis, MD, MAPP
Associate Director: Sarah J. Clark, MPH
Manager & Editor: Dianne C. Singer, MPH
Data Analyst: Amy T. Butchart, MS

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Public support for alcopop laws