Energy Drinks Get Congressional Hearing. What About Alcopops?

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A trio of U.S. Senators described as veterans of the tobacco wars--Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.)-- have now taken aim at energy drinks such as Monster and Red Bull, sweetened beverages with large doses of stimulants. At a recent hearing, the senators confronted industry representatives regarding their products' health risk and obvious marketing to youth via social media and extreme sporting events such as the X Games. According to Blumenthal, it's more than a little disingenuous to deny that energy drinks are appealing to children. But we have yet to see a hearing to address a similar product and marketing directed at, and endangering, youth: Alcopops.

As we observed in our 2007 report, alcohol producers employ the same social media and marketing tactics that energy drink companies use to appeal to youth. Products such as Smirnoff Ice, Bud Light Straw-Ber-Rita, and Four Loko are very popular among underage drinkers, loaded with up to 12% alcohol, and often priced cheaper than non-alcoholic energy drinks to appeal to the youth market. Alcohol Justice fought to convince the FDA to take action on alcoholic energy drinks, and as Connecticut Attorney General, Senator Blumenthal supported banning them. While they are no longer available caffeinated, the risks and lure of alcopops remain.

Congress has kept mum on the health risks of alcopops so far, yet youth suffer far more harm from alcohol than from caffeine. Senators Durbin, Markey, and Blumenthal led the way in protecting youth from tobacco. Now let's see them do the same for alcohol.