Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Trouble brewing

The attorneys general of Maryland and 29 other places have asked federal regulators to crack down on companies that sell alcohol-and-caffeine blends, claiming their ads target young people and make questionable health claims. (AP, “Attorneys general target drinks that mix alcohol with caffeine”; The Daily Record, Aug. 22).

The companies are using popular nonalcoholic “energy drinks” as a springboard to their alcohol-containing products, one AG claims. “Beverage companies are unconscionably appealing to young drinkers with claims about the stimulating properties of alcoholic energy drinks,” Oregon Attorney General Hardy Myers said.

The companies say the products — Miller Brewing Co.’s Sparks and Sparks Plus; Anheuser-Busch’s Bud Extra; and Charge Beverages’ Liquid Charge and Liquid Core drinks — are simply malt beverages with caffeine, which comply with all federal requirements.

Is the beverage industry preying on under-age drinkers, holding out the promise of a beer buzz with an edge? Is an ad that replaces a nuclear power plant's tower with a can of Liquid Charge making a health claim? Are imbibers of any age likely to think that adding caffeine to alcohol turns it into a health drink?

What do you think?

-BARBARA GRZINCIC, Managing Editor, Law

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