This exploratory study examined the ability of young adults to purchase alcoholic beverages through self-checkout lanes without being asked for age verification. Although the minimum drinking age in all 50 U. S. states is 21 years of age, drinking among underage persons (ages 12–20) remains a serious public health concern. Self-checkout options in off-sale alcoholic beverage outlets (e.g., grocery store chains, liquor stores) may represent a potential source of illicit access to alcohol compared with traditional checkout purchases
A total of 216 stores with self-checkout lanes were randomly selected in five Southern California counties. Pseudo-patrons independently judged to be 23 years of age or younger purchased alcohol in each store.
Overall, 8.8% of all purchase observations resulted in a failure to ask for identification to purchase alcohol.
The growing number of self-checkout options at supermarkets can be a potential source of alcohol for minors; however, the risk they pose is similar to that of traditional checkout purchases. Policies relating to the purchase of alcohol at any store, regardless of checkout type, should be modified so that every purchase of alcohol requires an identification card to be swiped regardless of age.
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