Thirty states are accusing beer companies of targeting young consumers with new drinks mixing alcohol and caffeine.
These alcoholic energy drinks are raising concerns that caffeine masks the intoxicating effect of alcohol. Consumers “may falsely believe that they can continue to drink and function without impairment, even behind the wheel of a car,” Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and 29 other state attorneys general wrote in a letter to the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, reports the Chicago Sun-Times.
The trend began when bartenders started mixing Red Bull, a nonalcoholic energy drink popular with youth, with vodka. Now, companies are combining energy and alcohol in one drink, with critics claiming it’s as dangerous as it is convenient. The products singled out in the accusations were Miller Brewing’s Sparks and Anheuser-Busch’s Bud Extra.
The attorneys general noted a recent study in which 26 young people reported feeling less headache, dry mouth and impairment after drinking Red Bull and vodka than they did after drinking alcohol alone. However, tests measuring coordination and visual reaction showed they were just as impaired, the newspaper reported.
“It’s totally irresponsible to market these kinds of products to keep young people drinking longer,” George Hacker of the Center for Science in the Public Interest told the Sun-Times.However, brewers say they target consumers only over age 21.
“We responsibly market our products to legal drinking age consumers,” a Miller spokesperson said.
Anheuser-Busch Vice President Francine Katz said caffeinated alcohol drinks “are nothing new. For years, adults have enjoyed rum and Coke, Irish coffee and liqueurs mixed with coffee.”
“The way to fight illegal underage drinking is not to limit product choices for adults,” Katz said. “Rather, the key is preventing youth access to alcohol.”