Preventing Underage Drinking with Community Strategies

Key points

  • Young people under 21 who drink alcohol are more likely to have negative effects on their health, safety, and well-being.
  • Underage drinking can also affect other people, like family, friends, and community members.
  • You can support proven strategies that help young people reach their highest potential, with less pressure to drink.
Family spending time outdoors in front of a lake and mountains.

Facts about underage drinking

  • Young people (ages 12-20) in the United States use alcohol more than other drugs.
    • Drinking can have serious effects on their health and well-being.
    • Underage drinking can also put their safety—and the safety of those around them—at risk.
  • People who are younger than 21 should not drink any alcohol.

How underage drinking harms our communities

Excessive alcohol use causes about 4,000 deaths among young people (under 21) each year.A1 These deaths are from several alcohol-related causes, such as:

  • Motor vehicle crashes.
  • Violence and other injuries.
  • Suicide.
  • Drug overdoses.
  • Health issues from being exposed to alcohol during pregnancy.

Proven community strategies to reduce underage drinking

These strategies can effectively lower alcohol-related harms for everyone, including people younger than 21.

Creating environments that support young people and families in drinking less includes:

Making alcohol less available

  • Adults, including parents, shouldn't give or serve alcohol to people younger than 21.
  • Communities can reduce the number of places that sell alcohol and increase the distance between them.

Increasing the price of alcohol

  • Raising taxes on alcohol can increase its price.
  • Other alcohol pricing policies can also adjust alcohol prices.

Enhancing enforcement of laws on alcohol sales

  • Laws that control alcohol sales may not be enforced well or evenly.
  • This includes laws that don't allow alcohol to be sold to people younger than 21.
  • Community efforts to enhance enforcement can help to lower underage drinking.

Other prevention strategies

The U.S. Surgeon General's Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health2 describes other strategies that can reduce underage drinking:

  • Raising awareness about alcohol-related harms through national media campaigns.
  • Limiting alcohol advertising seen by people younger than 21.
  • Developing effective community-based programs.


Learn more about:

  1. During 2020-2021.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Alcohol-Related Disease Impact application. Accessed March 21, 2024.
  2. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office of the Surgeon General. Facing addiction in America: The Surgeon General's report on alcohol, drugs, and health. Washington, DC: HHS, 2016.