Rowe Calls On Feds To Investigate The Marketing Of Alcoholic Energy Drinks

August 28, 2007

Attorney General Steve Rowe, joined by 29 attorneys general nationwide, urged the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) to stop alcohol manufacturers from making misleading health-related statements when advertising alcoholic drinks that contain caffeine and other stimulants. Rowe is the Co-Chair of the National Association of Attorneys General Youth Access to Alcohol Committee, which has been active in addressing concerns about the classification of beverages known as "alcopops" or "flavored malt beverages".

In a letter to TTB Administrator, John Manfreda, the attorneys general said that alcoholic energy drinks mimic non-alcoholic energy drinks that are very popular with youth. They warn that alcoholic energy drinks pose serious health and safety risks. According to medical researchers and public health professionals, the stimulants in alcoholic energy drinks may cause an intoxicated person to falsely believe that he or she can continue to drink and function normally.

In 2005, TTB warned manufacturers and advertisers of these alcoholic energy drinks not to imply that consumption of the products will have a stimulating or energizing effect. This warning has had little impact on the aggressive marketing campaigns for these products. For instance, Anheuser-Busch's BudExtra has an advertising slogan, "You can sleep when you're thirty" and implies the product offers renewed strength through the addition of guarana. The advertisements do not mention the potentially severe and adverse consequences of mixing caffeine and other stimulants with alcohol.

"Nonalcoholic energy drinks are very popular with today's youth," Attorney General Rowe said. "Beverage companies are unconscionably appealing to young drinkers with claims about the stimulating properties of alcoholic energy drinks. We urge TTB to take action to stop companies from making misleading claims."

Alcohol is the nation's number one drug problem among youth. It is involved in automobile crashes, homicides and suicides, the three leading causes of teen death. According to the 2006 Maine Youth Drug and Alcohol Use Survey, about half of Maine's high school seniors have had a drink in the past thirty days. More troubling, nearly 30% of high school seniors have engaged in binge drinking in the past two weeks. Binge drinking is having five or more alcoholic drinks in a row. "I am deeply concerned that alcoholic energy drinks will lead to even more aggressive binge drinking than we are already seeing. These new products are highly attractive and offer the promise of all-night energy."

The attorneys general also requested a TTB investigation into the makeup of alcoholic energy drinks and other flavored malt drinks to determine whether, based on the percentage of distilled spirits contained in the beverages, they are properly classified as malt drinks under federal law. The malt beverage classification, in many states, enables cheaper and broader sale of these beverages, making them more readily available to young people than distilled spirits.

Jessica Maurer, Special Assistant Attorney General, (207) 626-8515