Officials Concerned About Potential New Powdered Alcohol Product

Lawmakers have expressed concern over a new form of alcohol that could hit the market as early as the fall. In early April, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) approved labels for seven varieties of Palcohol, a brand of dehydrated alcohol, ranging from straight vodka to a powdered margarita. Derided as “the Kool-Aid of teen binge drinking,” lawmakers and other concerned parties say Palcohol poses a particular risk for youth who may be attracted to this easily portable, easily hidden form of alcohol. 

Dehydrated or powdered alcohol is not a new product. Patents have been held for various formulas since 1970, but never came to market due to either a lackluster market or difficulty with government regulation. However, the labelling approval of Palcohol, which the TTB has since revoked, drew attention to the many dangers inherent in dehydrated alcohol, many of which seemed to be not only acknowledged, but advertised by Palcohol creator Mark Phillips.The original Palcohol website, written in language Phillips describes as “edgy,” encouraged users to sneak the product into banned venues, sprinkle it onto food, and even discussed snorting the product. From the original website: “Let’s talk about the elephant in the room….snorting Palcohol. Yes, you can snort it. And you’ll get drunk almost instantly because the alcohol will be absorbed so quickly in your nose. Good idea? No. It will mess you up. Use Palcohol responsibly.”This flippant approach of the manufacturer only highlighted growing concerns with the product, particularly: youth access, spiking food or beverages, and snorting or inhaling the product. The Palcohol site has now been modified to remove the offending remarks and provide more information on how the product will be difficult to abuse.

The modified FAQ section on snorting now reads: “Can I snort it? We have seen comments about goofballs wanting to snort it. Don’t do it! You wouldn’t want to anyway. It would take you approximately 60 minutes of painful snorting to get the equivalent of one shot of vodka up your nose. Why would you do that when drinking a shot of liquid vodka takes about two seconds?”

While Phillips has modified his marketing approach and resubmitted Palcohol for TTB review, concerned lawmakers, such as Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) are calling for the product to be banned before it enters the market.

“It’s absurd. It’s scary,” Schumer told WCBS Radio and other news outlets recently. “I’m calling on the Food and Drug Administration to immediately step in, investigate Palcohol based on its obvious health risks and prohibit this ludicrous product from going to market.”

Schumer was a driving force behind the ban of Four Loko and other dangerous caffeinated alcohol products, the last alcoholic fad abused by teens and young adults.

CADCA agrees with Sen. Schumer.

“Palcohol is a ridiculous product and really just an attempt to appeal to young people. CADCA believes that there’s nothing good that can come out of powdered alcohol and we support efforts to restrict it.  It’s important to remain vigilant about new and emerging novelty products like these and that’s why it’s critical that we have community coalitions across the country that are alerting us to these products and trends before they wreak havoc on our communities,” said Gen. Arthur T. Dean, CADCA Chairman and CEO.

While Palcohol is being resubmitted to the TTB for further review, some states are working to ban the product before it enters the national market. While Mark Phillips notes that Palcohol would federally be processed and sold in the same venues as traditional alcohol, in Vermont, state Senator Kevin Mullin is concerned that current state laws only address liquid alcohol, making the powdered form difficult to regulate, and more accessible to youth.

“You can’t buy a bottle of gin at the liquor store if you’re 16. But there’s nothing that I can see in Vermont statute that would prohibit you from buying powdered alcohol, if it was available,” he told Vermont’s NPR affiliate.

In Minnesota, state Representative Joe Atkins has introduced a bill to enact a statewide ban as quickly as possible, noting “with how quickly this is moving, we shouldn’t wait until next session to deal with this issue. We need to move quickly to protect public health.”

Alcohol Justice, an alcohol industry watchdog group, agrees that immediate action is necessary to prevent powered alcohol from ever reaching the market. The group has asked concerned parties to write letters to federal officials through their online tool, calling for the ban of powdered alcohol before it ever is available to teens or young adults.

Source:  CADCA May 07, 2014

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