Per capita consumption of alcohol has also fallen relative to other consumer beverages: from 21 percent of the total in 1980 to 15 percent in 1997 (Putnam and Allshouse, 1999).
According to the National Household Survey, fewer than half of Americans age 12 or older are current drinkers (had a drink in the past 30 days), and fewer than 5.7 percent drink heavily (five or more drinks on an occasion on at least five different days in the past month) (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration [SAMHSA], 2002). Of United States drinkers, the heaviest drinking 5 percent (those who average 4.2 drinks or more per day over the course of a year) consume 42 percent of the alcohol (Greenfield and Rogers, 1999), while the top 15 percent drinks 73 percent of the alcohol. More than half of all alcoholic beverages in the United States (and 76 percent of beer) are consumed at high-risk levels, that is, when drinkers had five or more drinks on a single occasion (Rogers and Greenfield, 1999).
Consumption among young people is even more concentrated in a small group of heavy users. Young people (under age 21) account for an estimated 12 percent of the total market (U.S. Department of Justice, 2002), and the majority of young people who drink report binge drinking1 (SAMHSA, 2002). These binge drinkers consume the vast majority of the alcohol drunk by young people: 92 percent for 12- to 14-year-olds, and 96 percent for 15- to 17-year-olds and 18- to 20-year-olds (U.S. Department of Justice, 2002).
The number of new teenage drinkers appears to be increasing. According to the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse (NHSDA), between 1995 and 1999 (the latest year for which data are available), the total number of people who began drinking alcohol increased significantly from 3.5 million to 5 million. The majority of those initiates were teens: between 1995 and 2000, the number of persons aged 12 to 17 who started drinking alcohol grew from 2.2 million to 3.1 million. At the same time, the average age of initiation of alcohol use has generally decreased since 1965 (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2002).
In modern alcohol markets, the advertising and promotion of alcohol are central to the product itself. Whereas in earlier eras, alcohol may have been marketed based on the quality, purity, and price of the product, now the identity of the brand is paramount (Jernigan, 2001). As the Chief Ex-