Attorneys general sign petition against 'alcopops'

Small Business Times

August 21, 2007

Two weeks after the Marin Institute released a special report condemning the impact of alcoholic energy drinks on America's youth, the attorneys general of 29 states have signed a petition that asks the federal government to further regulate the marketing of the drinks.


The Marin Institute's report, "Alcohol, Energy Drinks, and Youth: A Dangerous Mix," documented how the drinks, which the agency describes as "alcopops," are having an adverse effect on underage drinkers.


In a letter released today, the state attorneys asked the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) to expand its efforts to prevent misleading health-related statements from being made in connection with the beverages and to investigate the formulation of alcoholic energy drinks to determine whether they are properly classified as malt beverages under federal law.


"We believe that alcoholic energy drinks constitute a serious health and safety risk for America's youth," said the attorneys general in the letter.


They listed several products and advertisements that "warrant investigation and possible enforcement action ... because they contain misleading health-related claims regarding the products' effects, in violation of federal regulations."


Among the products mentioned are Miller Brewing Co.'s Sparks and Sparks Plus, Anheuser-Busch's Bud Extra, and Charge Beverages' Liquid Charge and Liquid Core.
Referring to Milwaukee-based Miller's Sparks drinks, the letter states, "The advertising scheme for these beverages, which are manufactured by Miller Brewing Co., centers on providing energy. Both the individual cans and the cases in which they are packaged are designed to look like batteries. The advertising slogan for these drinks is 'Powered
by Sparks.'"


According to the letter, the promotional statements for Bud Extra include, “Who’s up for staying out all night," "Say hello to an endless night of fun," "Stay around for every twist of the ride" and "You can sleep when you’re 30."


The Marin Institute report noted that adding alcohol to energy drinks presents a serious danger for young people. Caffeine, a stimulant, masks the intoxicating effects of alcohol, and may lead to increased risk-taking. In addition, youth are known to suffer from higher rates of alcohol problems, including alcohol-related traffic accidents, violence, sexual assault and suicide, the organization said.


"We commend the attorneys general for taking on the companies making energy drinks, as we believe they are irresponsibly marketing these drinks to youth," said Michele Simon, research and policy director for Marin Institute and co-author of the report. "They boast that their products will enhance energy and alertness, but fail to warn users of the potential for misjudging one's level of intoxication."


Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen did not sign the petition.


To read the letter from the other attorneys general and the Marin Institute report, visit www.marininstitute.org.