Twenty-Nine US States Attack Beer Barons' Teen Ads

23 August 2007

HARTFORD, Connecticut: Twenty-nine state attorneys-general, among them Connecticut's Richard Blumenthal, have written to Anheuser-Busch, Miller Brewing and other US booze barons.

The letter criticizes them for producing and promoting alcoholic energy drinks containing caffeine and other stimulants.

Citing serious health concerns, the senior legal officers have called on the companies to provide readable warning labels that alert consumers about the health risks posed by these products.

In their letter the attorneys general note that medical doctors and public health professionals have warned that combining caffeinated energy drinks with alcohol - a practice popular among young people - poses significant health and safety risks.

It reads: "These alcoholic energy drinks are promoted and packaged in a way that is highly attractive to underage youth.

"Drinks such as Spykes [and similar brands] plainly and perniciously appeal to children in both taste and appearance - and their caffeine content dangerously masks the effects of the alcohol.

"If [brewer's name] is going to hold itself out as a partner in the fight against underage drinking, then it must stop marketing these types of drinks that so strongly appeal to underage youth."

The letter accuses the offending brands of using slogans such as 'You can sleep when you're 30'; and 'Who's up for staying out all night?' They are primarily marketed on websites featuring music popular with young people.

The companies concerned immediately went into Pavlovian defensive mode.

Said Miller: "Sparks was created solely for the consumption of legal-drinking-age consumers … We responsibly market our products to legal-drinking-age consumers consistent with our own high standards, industry marketing codes and applicable laws and regulations."

While A-B claimed that Bud Extra contains less caffeine than a 12-ounce cup of Starbucks coffee.

A-B added: "We are surprised at the attorneys general focus on comparatively lower-alcohol products when two weeks ago the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a study indicating ... that the alcohol beverages minors most consume are hard-liquor products, which may have as much as ten times the alcohol by volume as malt beverages."

A-B's knuckles have also been rapped over the illegible health warnings on its Spykes product - a concern shared by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau - and warned that such labels violate federal law. A-B has since agreed to stop production and to replace the product labels.

The attorneys urged the companies to act promptly to address their remaining concerns about the production and marketing of the offending products.

Data sourced from multiple origins; additional content by WARC staff