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AG Rowe Announces MillerCoors to Stop Brewing All Alcoholic Energy Drinks
December 18, 2008
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Jessica Maurer, Special Assistant Attorney General, 207-626-8515 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Today Maine Attorney General Rowe and Attorneys from 13 other jurisdictions announced a settlement with MillerCoors LLC that will result in the nationwide discontinuance of the best-selling pre-mixed alcoholic energy drink in the country, Sparks. As part of the agreement, MillerCoors agrees not to produce any caffeinated alcohol beverages in the future. Attorney General Rowe commends MillerCoors for its decision to take these dangerous products off the market.
In early 2008, published research about the dangers of alcoholic energy drinks and concerns about the way the products were being marketed, led Maine to initiate an investigation into the safety and marketing of MillerCoors Sparks brand products, which include Sparks Original, Sparks Light, Sparks Plus and an unreleased higher alcohol product called Sparks Red.
Maine issued a civil investigative demand to MillerCoors in early January pursuant to Maine’s consumer protection and trade practices statutes. The investigation alleged, among other things, that MillerCoors made false and misleading health-related statements about the energizing effects of Sparks and illegally marketed the products to underage youth.
Attorney General Rowe, the out-going Co-Chair of the National Association of Attorneys General Youth Access to Alcohol Committee, said, “I am gravely concerned about pre-mixed alcoholic energy drinks. These amped-up-alcopops that look like non-alcohol energy drinks are popular with young people who wrongly believe that the caffeine will counteract the intoxicating effects of the alcohol. These beliefs are fueled by unconscionable and aggressive marketing campaigns that target our youth and promise endless nights of fun and enhanced abilities.”
In addition to providing that MillerCoors will eliminate caffeine and other stimulants from its Sparks brand products, the settlement announced today addresses concerns about the marketing of Sparks. MillerCoors has agreed to stop using images in its marketing that imply energy or power, like the battery-themed +/- symbols on the can. MillerCoors has also agreed to cease particular marketing themes that appeal to underage youth, eliminating advertisements that feature a bright orange-stained tongue and not renewing its contract with William Ocean, an air guitar champion who does a back flip onto an opened can of Sparks at all of his shows. MillerCoors will also immediately discontinue the Sparks website, which looks like it was created by a college freshman.
“I am disturbed that MillerCoors was using images and themes that are popular to young people to convey the message that Sparks could “power” their nights,” said Attorney General Rowe. “This agreement is a huge win for the health and safety of our nation’s young people.”
While MillerCoors denied claims made by the investigating jurisdictions, it cooperated with the investigation and decided to reformulate Sparks brand products without caffeine or other stimulants. MillerCoors also agrees not to produce any other caffeinated alcohol beverages in the future.
Young people aren’t drinking just one or two of these alcoholic energy drinks – these products are intended to be consumed several times throughout a night of partying and to be used as a mixer for other alcoholic beverages. A recently published study by Dr. Mary Claire O’Brien of Wake Forest University found that college students who mix alcohol and energy drinks engage in increased heavy episodic drinking and have twice as many episodes of weekly drunkenness. College students who reported consuming alcohol mixed with energy drinks also had significantly higher prevalence of alcohol-related consequences, like sexual assault and injury.
“Alcohol mixed with high amounts of caffeine is a recipe for disaster, particularly in the hands of young people,” said Attorney General Rowe. “Caffeine gives drinkers the subjective belief that they can function normally. This means they’re more likely to make unsafe decisions which can result in serious harm. We must send a strong message to our young people that mixing caffeine and alcohol is not safe.”
In June, Attorneys General announced that Anheuser-Busch would stop producing alcoholic energy drinks, including Tilt and Bud Extra. With the elimination of Sparks from the market, nearly 85% of all alcoholic energy drinks that were available at the start of this year will be eliminated from the market. Maine will continue to work with other jurisdictions to investigate alcoholic energy drinks manufactured by other companies and will explore all options to address these dangerous products, including regulation, legislation and litigation.
To read the Assurance of Voluntary Compliance, click this link to a PDF document: http://www.maine.gov/tools/whatsnew/attach.php?id=65301&an=1
 Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland and New York issued investigative subpoenas to MillerCoors. Arizona, California, Connecticut, Idaho, Mississippi, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma and the City of San Francisco assisted in the investigation.