When the alcohol industry developed and marketed sugary sweet wine coolers with kid friendly flavors like bubble gum and Cherry Coke, they had young people in mind.
Then alcohol producers boldly developed alcopops. The best-known among them is Four Loko. Alcopops are supersized at 23.5-ounces in a single serving. The high-octane alcohol content is a staggering 12-percent and the cans are deceptively camouflaged to look like a soda can. Unsuspecting parents might not even notice them next to other soda cans.
According to Michelle Simon, the former Director of an alcohol watch dog group, “these products are extremely dangerous because they are cheap, taste like soda and give young drinkers a big alcohol bang for their buck.”
Recently, the FTC forced the manufacturers of the Four Loko to label their cans with labels that state that each serving of alcopop has as much alcohol as four to five cans of beer. By most definitions, just one serving of Four Loko or similar alcopop drink is the equivalent of binge drinking. The Center for Disease Control defines binge drinking as four to five drinks in a row within an hour.
These super sized, alcohol laden drinks are a perfect fit for teenage drinkers. Teens, unlike adults, must drink as much alcohol as possible in the shortest amount of time. Most teens won’t be lounging around their parent’s homes or the local bar drinking at a leisurely pace. Teens must hide their drinking and have time limited opportunities to drink alcohol.
In my opinion, putting a warning label on alcopops about its high alcohol content is a victory for alcohol manufacturers. Rather than discouraging young drinkers from consuming alcopops, it may in fact compel them to seek the drinks out. Ironically, the labels may act as a powerful advertisement that boosts sales.
Previously, alcohol manufacturers infused alcohol drinks with caffeine. The net effect was to make young drinkers more alert and therefore more able to drink longer. The research was so damming that the lethal combination of caffeine infused alcohol drinks were no longer legal. This change was accomplished through the efforts of various watch dog groups and state attorney generals from across the country.
It seems to me that this victory could be a purchase from which to establish limits on the amount of alcohol allowed in a single drink. When unscrupulous tobacco manufacturers were targeting kids with their products, they were stopped. The alcohol manufacturing community is marketing to the same audience.
The tragedies connected to underage drinking are well documented and almost everyone knows a family touched by this tragic issue. These heart-wrenching tragedies are preventable; however, it will take the actions of many agencies and individuals.
Requiring alcohol retailers to age check every alcohol purchase is in place, law enforcement agencies have stepped up surveillance and enforcement activities around drinking and driving and underage drinking parties and a variety of agencies provide education to youth and their parents about the risks of underage drinking.
Perhaps it is simply time to outlaw these outrageously dangerous drinks that are being marketed to youth. I cannot think of one reason for alcohol regulators to allow the production of these lethal drinks to continue. The sale and proceeds of these lethal concoctions is an unworthy rational when balanced against the life of one young person or their family.
Remember all kids count.
Reach the writer at Hurlburt@wildblue.net