Alcoholic Energy Drinks Threaten Health, Safety Of America's Youth

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Just two short weeks after Marin Institute released Alcohol, Energy Drinks, and Youth: A Dangerous Mix, in an effort to document a frightening trend in alcoholic beverages targeting underage youth, the chief legal officers from 29 states have united to condemn alcoholic energy drinks. In a letter released today, the 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 today's letter. They listed a number of 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." The products mentioned included Miller Brewing Company's Sparks and Sparks Plus, Anheuser-Busch's Bud Extra, and Charge Beverages' Liquid Charge and Liquid Core.

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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.

"We commend the attorneys general for taking on the companies making energy drinks, as we believe they are irresponsibly marketing these drinks to youth," says Michele Simon, JD, MPH, research and policy director for Marin Institute and co-author of the report with James Mosher, JD, of Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation (PIRE). "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."

"Alcohol producers are taking advantage of the popularity of nonalcoholic energy drinks to sell their products to youth," added Mosher. "They package their products to be indistinguishable from nonalcoholic energy drinks, confusing consumers, retailers, parents, law enforcement officials, and others who can't tell which drinks contain alcohol and which do not."

"The recommendations of the attorneys general echo our own," said Simon. "The TTB should investigate the ingredients found in alcoholic energy drinks and determine whether the products are properly classified as malt beverages under federal law. The TTB should also take a closer look at the labeling and advertising practices associated with these youth-targeted drinks."

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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.