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  • New Four Loko Line: Smaller Can = Still Deceptive

    PocoLokoIt's only been around for a few years, but Phusion Projects and its frat boy founders know a good marketing opportunity when they see it. While the word spreads about the danger of their supersized alcopops (versions of previous alcoholic energy drinks that no longer contain caffeine, but still pack the equivalent of nearly five beers into one big 23.5 ounce can), Phusion found a chance to try to look like a corporation that cares: a new product line in a slightly smaller can! Complete with a cutesy name! 
    Phusion’s new line – the cheeky-sounding Poco Loko – could very well convince youth that they can drink more cans of it without risk to their safety or health. However, at 16 ounces and 8% alcohol by volume, one can is the equivalent of more than 2 beers. The high alcohol level plus the sickly-sweet flavors that mask the alcohol taste is a dangerous combination, packaged in cans perfectly sized for shotgunning and drinking games. We wonder how parents of the students attending this local Chicago preschool and kindergarten feel about their corporate neighbor grabbing the name for this new line of products.

    It seems like Phusion Projects has forgotten the U.S. Federal Trade Commission's 2010 advice that the marketing for Phusion's supersized alcoholic energy drinks was potentially unfair and deceptive due to the size and alcohol levels of its products. The new Poco Loko line still contains more than two standard drinks in one single-serving container. The FTC should open an investigation of the marketing and sales of supersized alcopop products, including this new Poco Loko line, to protect consumers and public health.

    Phusion may seek to convince the public that their products are smaller and less potent to increase unit sales, but the public knows better. Like Sparks, Tilt, Joose and Blast, this Four Loko mutation is still a supersized alcopop that packs a big punch. Even with a label that says "poco."

  • Test for lists

  • Bill to Ban Self-Serve Alcohol Sales in California Lands on Governor's Desk


    CONTACT:  Michael Scippa 415-548-0492
                                  Jorge Castillo 213-840-3336 

    Bill to Ban Self-Serve Alcohol Sales in California
    Lands on Governor’s Desk
    Senate Members Applauded for Voting Yes to
    Reduce Youth Access to Alcohol

    SAN FRANCISCO, CA (September 12, 2011) -- Alcohol Justice (formerly Marin Institute) is calling on California Governor Jerry Brown to quickly sign AB 183 to ban alcohol sales through self-serve checkout machines in California. The bill, authored by Assembly Member Fiona Ma (D-San Francisco), passed through the state Senate last week on a vote of 21 to 16 with 3 abstentions.
    “We thank the Senators who voted yes on AB 183 and now ask the Governor to take quick action and sign it into law,” stated Michael Scippa, Public Affairs Director at Alcohol Justice. “The rise in self-serve checkout lanes in California stores that sell alcoholic beverages is creating a recipe for disaster. Easy access to alcohol is a key driver of underage drinking, which in turn causes violent crime, car crashes, and high-risk sex.”
    Research over the past few years from UCLA and San Diego State University shows that self-checkout machines failed to operate properly almost 10% of the time when alcohol was scanned, and that up to 32% of the time students were not asked to show ID. Moreover, Metro United Methodist Urban Ministry found that young people were able to "game" the self-checkout system almost 70% of the time, by scanning a 12-pack of soda and bagging a 12-pack of beer. Also, self-serve checkout machines do not prevent already intoxicated adults form purchasing more alcohol.
    “Unfortunately the main opponents of this bill, the California Chamber of Commerce and state grocer associations, chose to ignore the evidence-based data,”stated Jorge Castillo, Alcohol Justice Advocacy & Outreach Manager. They attempted to characterize the measure as a self-serving  ‘union-sponsored bill,’ but really only succeeded in showing their true colors – protecting profits instead of public health and safety.” 
    A broad alliance of supporters for AB 183 includes MADD, Consumer Federation of California, California Council on Alcohol Problems (CalCap), Lutheran Office of Public Policy – California, California Police Chiefs, Alcohol Justice, California Narcotic Officers Association, Metro United Methodist Urban Ministry, California's Police Officers (PORAC), California Professional Firefighters, and other organizations throughout the state.  They campaigned for passage through the legislature and are now asking the Governor to sign AB 183 to protect youth and help reduce alcohol-related harm in California – a catastrophic annual $38.4 billion dollar drain on the state.
    “In California we don’t allow ‘vending machine’ sales of dangerous products, like tobacco, spray paint, many drugs, guns and ammo,”added Scippa. “We should not allow the sale of alcohol, the most dangerous and abused drug of all, in any manner other than a face to face encounter with a trained clerk.  AB 183 will accomplish that as soon as the Governor signs it into law. We ask him to do it soon.”
    To take action and send a message to Governor Brown, go to:
    For more information on the dangers of self-serve alcohol sales, go to:
  • Regulators Play Whack-A-Mole with Flavored Malt Beverages

    CONTACT: Michael Scippa 415-548-0492
     Jorge Castillo 213-840-3336

    Regulators Play Whack-A-Mole with Flavored Malt Beverages

    Alcohol Justice Report on How Alcopops Morphed
    from Caffeinated to Supersized

    SAN FRANCISCO, CA (September 7, 2011) -- Alcohol Justice, formerly Marin Institute, released a revealing study today entitled: From Alcoholic Energy Drinks to Supersized Alcopops: A Rare Victory in Protecting Youth from Big Alcohol.The report celebrates the concerted efforts of numerous public health organizations, states attorneys general, researchers, and government agencies that forced alcoholic energy drinks (AEDs) to remove caffeine from their products in November 2010.

    More than a historical case study, it documents a growing tragedy as new or revised flavored malt beverages (FMBs, popularly called alcopops) immediately popped up like moles in a whack-a-mole game. The new lethal threats to underage youth are supersized alcopops with 4 to 5 standard drink sizes in a can. As Big Alcohol (from Pabst to MillerCoors, LLC and Anheuser-Busch InBev) continuously dreams up dangerous new products to hook youth, a moment’s pause to celebrate the significant public health victory over AEDs may be in order – with reservations.

    The report chronicles the rise and fall of AEDs, starting with Sparks and Tilt,and movingto Joose and Four Loko. “In 2007 many states attorneys general leaned on Big Alcohol and we released a major evidence-based report about the problem,”stated Sarah Mart, Research Director at Alcohol Justice. “However, it took three years of youth hospitalizations and tragic deaths from AEDs to finally get the products off the market.”

    Federal regulators, led by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), acted on AEDs by sending a strongly worded ruling that the addition of caffeine to alcoholic beverages was an “unsafe food additive,” not approved for use, and continued violation could result in seizure of illegal products.

    In response, most producers reformulated their alcopops without the illegal stimulants, but at the same time new dangerous products were released. The new industry standard is supersized alcopops: sweet, bubbly FMBs in 24-ounce single-serving containers with up to 12% alcohol content, enough to get any person inebriated and poison a teen.

    “Unfortunately our case study couldn’t end with just celebrating FDA action,”said Mart. “We had to look at how smaller companies like Phusion and Pabst led the whole product line to supersized containers and alcohol content.”

    “Big Alcohol replaced AEDs with an arguably more dangerous product: the same companies grew their AEDs into “supersized alcopops,”stated Bruce Lee Livingston, Executive Director / CEO of Alcohol Justice. “Blast by Pabst Brewing Company, and Mike’s Harder Lemonade bullied their way onto the shelves with alcopops on steroids, joining bulked-up former AEDs like Tilt, Four Loko and Sparks. Alcohol Justice recommends the Federal Trade Commission, TTB and Congress investigate how supersized alcopops are threatening our youth,” Livingston added, “and states can ban them, limit their availability or tax the heck out of them.”

    To read From Alcoholic Energy Drinks to Supersized Alcopops: A Rare Victory in Protecting Youth from Big Alcohol, go to The report was authored by Michele Simon, JD, MPH, Sarah Mart, MPH, and Ryan Treffers, JD.


  • Colleges and Universities Sell Out for Easy Alcohol Industry Money

    31288 collegefootballsaturdaylogoMillerCoors LLC, one-half of the Big Beer Duopoly and the second largest brewer in the U.S., recently signed a $10 million sponsorship deal with 23 nationally recognized universities including Arizona State, California, Clemson, Colorado, Penn State, and Washington. These sponsorships authorize the use of the MillerCoors brand along with school marks on television, radio, print, and online marketing, as well as on point-of-sale material. Meanwhile, MillerCoors reports that an undetermined portion of the advertising will be used to promote the company’s branded “broader responsibility platform."

    If this sounds like MillerCoors is carrying out its widespread college-oriented marketing under the guise of “responsible drinking," that’s because it is. The company seeks to promote its brand (hence, its products) at the college level, where a large proportion of students are not even the minimum legal drinking age. In a recent study, Miller was reported as the eighth most preferred alcohol brand for underage females and the fifth most preferred for underage males. Large-scale marketing campaigns like this one increase loyalty to, and positive perceptions of, alcohol brands. In one such self-congratulatory college-oriented campaign, Miller Coors goes so far as to state that Coors Light "Makes Dreams Come True." And how do they do that, you ask? Simple: by sending fans to college football games. No, not to college football games.

    MillerCoors, while one of the biggest, is by no means the only alcohol producer taking advantage of college and university branding opportunities. Like a more expensive version of Anheuser-Busch InBev's "fan cans" from years past, Louisiana State University and the University of California at Davis recently partnered with local breweries to create and promote beer branded with their school. Tin Roof Brewing Company will produce an LSU-branded beer in time for football season, while Sudwerk Restaurant and Brewery is brewing and promoting “Aggie Lager" for UC Davis, which has licensed the use of its name and athletics trademark to the brewer. University of Michigan and Boston College also have beer branding agreements in the making.

    University administrators say that these licensing, branding, and alcohol sales agreements would provide educational benefits to their students. In reality, college administrators are selling their students' brand loyalty and positive regard for the alcohol industry. Meanwhile, dangerous amounts of alcohol-related harm persist and threaten student safety, health, and academic success in college communities.

    The alcohol industry argues that it is helping to promote "responsible" drinking behaviors on college campuses, but its public relations tactics are intended to fuel consumption and profits. It’s time for alcohol producers to stop this charade and quit throwing money at schools to promote their brands while engaging in feel-good industry PR poorly dressed up as "prevention." It's also time for universities to refuse industry funding for promotional efforts that inevitably contribute to alcohol-related harm for their students.

  • CBS Sports Op-Ed: Alcohol and Spectator Violence

    CBSSportsImageWe’ve all heard the recent media attention to the explosion of violence among spectators at professional sporting games: the beat-down at Dodger stadium that left a Giants fan in a coma, the shootings in Candlestick Park after a Niners game, and hundreds of fights in the stands. What media outlets consistently gloss over is the critical role that alcohol plays in the spectator violence. Then, Gregg Doyel’s recent op-ed called out the elephant in the room. Doyel poignantly points out the painful truth that the industry hopes the fans and media overlook: It isn’t “the Raiders vs. the 49ers” or “the Nortenos vs. the Surenos” that leads to the bloodspill. It is “Budweiser vs. the bloodstream…And Budweiser, or whatever those animals are guzzling, wins every time.” Alcohol Justice also commented on this problem in a USA Today article earlier this year. Read more of Doyel's analysis here.