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How to Outlaw Supersized Alcopops: A Model for States

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Last year, caffeinated alcohol beverages were taken off the U.S. market after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned several manufacturers that adding caffeine to alcohol was unsafe. Six states — California, Illinois, Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Vermont – are now considering bills that would ban the beverages altogether.

However, sweetly-flavored malt beverages referred to as “alcopops” – with up to four or five servings of alcohol in a “single-serving” can – are still on the shelves, and Marin Institute wants states to take action, according to a Jan. 26 press release

Marin Institute is distributing a model statute (PDF) that states can use to craft their own legislation to limit alcopops. Targeted beverages would include, the press release said, “Anheuser-Busch InBev’s Tilt brand, Phusion Project’s [sic] re-formulated Four Loko line, United Brands’ reformulated Joose line and some of Mike’s Hard Lemonade products.”

Alcopops come in 23.5-oz cans and contain up to 12 percent alcohol, which Marin Institute estimated is about the same as 4.7 standard drinks, or four or five beers. 

“They took the caffeine out of their drinks,” said Bruce Lee Livingston, who directs Marin Institute, “but now they are fueling youth binge drinking with giant single-serving cans of alcopops.”

Because alcopos are sweet and fruity in flavor, they’re believed to be especially attractive to underage youth. And underage drinking isn’t a small problem: 10.7 million underage Americans drink, according to Marin Institute, and about 70 percent of them binge drink. Why does that matter? For one thing, because alcohol-related problems connected to underage drinking cost the country about $60 billion every year. 

Michele Simon, research and policy director at Marin Institute, said that a federal ban on caffeinated drinks was not enough. “As the primary regulators of alcoholic beverages, the states have full legal authority to ban dangerous alcoholic products like supersized alcopops.”

The model statute contains language that would allow states to outlaw caffeinated beverages and limit the size and alcohol content of alcopops.

 

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