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.



Study: Beer Industry Self-Regulation of Advertising is Ineffective

AJPHBeer producers regulating their own advertisements are failing to meet the U.S. Beer Institute’s own guidelines, researchers from the University of Connecticut have found. The researchers evaluated all beer ads broadcasted nationally during NCAA basketball games between 1999 and 2008. Between 35% and 74% of the ads violated the industry trade group's code, depending on the code version, exclusion criteria, and scoring method. “For ten years the beer industry has been targeting young people with advertisements that violate its own self-regulation codes,” said Thomas Babor, principal investigator. “Unless the responsibility for pre-vetting ads is transferred to an independent authority charged with protecting vulnerable populations, we cannot expect much improvement by the industry.” For more on the failure of industry self-regulation re: spirits producers, see our report Why Big Alcohol Can’t Police Itself.


San Rafael Coalition Awarded Drug-Free Communities Grant

The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) announced that the San Rafael Alcohol and Drug Coalition is a grant recipient in the new Drug-Free Communities (DFC) Support Program. Alcohol Justice will receive $125,000 per year (renewable for 5 years) to involve and engage the Marin County community in the prevention of substance abuse among youth through the new coalition. The Coalition will specifically work to establish and strengthen community collaboration in support of local efforts to prevent youth substance use in the Canal district, a California neighborhood of 12,000 residents. For more information about the ONDCP or DFC Support Program, visit:

For more information about the San Rafael Alcohol and Drug Coalition, contact Jorge Castillo at (415) 257-2488.


Tell U.S. Trade Rep. Froman: Stop Fast-Tracking the TPP

froman.175-x-200.insideAs negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) reportedly near completion, the Obama administration is ramping up calls for a dangerous “fast track” process that would allow the president to sign the bill before Congress can read the final text. The massive free trade agreement is set to be a giant threat to American democracy and sovereignty. The secret trade negotiating process lacks transparency, and the agreement could give multinational corporations the ability to sue a government over policies the corporation thinks is unfair. If alcohol is not exempt from its provisions, the TPP will allow corporations to undermine alcohol regulation and negatively impact public health and safety in the U.S. Send President Obama and U.S. Trade Representative Froman a message: Don't sell out public health. Exclude alcohol from TPP provisions. Don't fast-track the TPP.