Checking birth dates as a requirement to entering a site was one suggestion of a 1999 Federal Trade Commission report. That earlier study was prompted by complaints from the Center for Media Education. At that time, the FTC advised the alcohol industry to revamp its approach to advertising with an eye toward reducing underage appeal.
Before 1999, the industry's own guidelines required that more than 50 percent of the audience for ads be over 21. The FTC pointed out that, because only 30 percent of the United States' population is younger than 21, the 50 percent mark disproportionately skews advertising toward younger people.
Last year when the FTC revisited the issue, it found that some marketing strategies had improved. But the Commission did acknowledge that "no technologies... permitted advertisers to limit site entry to those who could be determined to be of legal age."
An Anheuser-Busch spokesperson agrees. The company requires a birth date to enter its site, but notes it can't actually be enforced.
"Our age-check system is designed to remind site visitors of our policy of marketing only to adults," he says.
You know, before I began beer blogging I never thought about looking at beer online. I have several really good liquor stores within a few minutes drive where I can actually drool over expensive imports. It never occurred to me that there was beer porn on the net.
I think the age "verification" thing is stupid. There is no way of preventing an under age person from just entering a legal birth date.
And is it really that big a deal? I don't think beer web sites are going to be the deciding factor for who does and doesn't drink.