AGs find new beverage problem

John O'Brien May 10, 2007, 3:00pm

While some states fight to keep the energy drink Cocaine off their stores' shelves, twenty-eight state attorneys general have signed a letter sent to Anheuser-Busch that expresses their concern over the company's alcoholic energy drinks.

Among the four problems the group has with the drink Spykes is the fact that it is contained in tiny bottles, which clearly targets minors.

"Spykes appears to be tailored to the youth palate and to youth culture in numerous ways," the letter says. "First, Anheuser-Busch produces it only in fruit and chocolate flavors. Second, advertising for Spykes touts the fact that it contains caffeine and other additives that young people are likely to associate with popular, nonalcoholic energy drinks.

"Third, Anheuser-Busch bottles Spykes in tiny, attractive, brightly colored containers that can be easily concealed in a pocket or purse. Fourth, the product's designation as a flavored malt beverage allows Anheuser-Busch to sell Spykes inexpensively, and to distribute it, in many states, to grocery stores and convenience stores, where it may be more readily seen and purchased by underage youth than if it were sold only in liquor stores."

The group says the drink is being made available to minors because it can be purchased on an Internet site, which has no "effective means of preventing underage access."

"Anheuser-Busch has chosen to advertise Spykes primarily through the Internet, a medium favored by, and readily available to, young people under the age of 21," the letter says.

The letter also mentions the drinks Tilt and Bud Extra, but primarily speaks of Spykes.

"Given the documented health and safety risks of consuming alcohol in combination with caffeine or other stimulants, Anheuser-Busch's decision to introduce and promote these alcoholic energy drinks is extremely troubling," the letter says. "Young people are heavy consumers of nonalcoholic energy drinks, and the manufacturers of those products explicitly target the teenage market."

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal is one of the signees. He has been successful in his crusade against Cocaine, an energy drink produced by Redux Beverages.

The attorneys general of the following also signed the letter: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Florida, Guam, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia and Wyoming

The letter suggests, at a minimum, "a responsible marketing plan" that includes a warning about the risks of mixing alcohol and caffeine and bottles large enough to display legibly the warning. Also, it suggests stronger age-verification measures for online buyers.

"Finally, a responsible marketing plan would not direct its focus at young people who have just reached the legal drinking age, without regard for the tremendous appeal that a product's composition, packaging and advertising may also have for underage youth" it continues. "We urge you to take prompt, meaningful action to address our concerns."

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