Attorney General Cuomo Announces Millercoors To Stop Brewing Alcoholic Energy Drinks

New York, NY (December 18, 2008)--Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today joined Attorneys General from 13 other jurisdictions in announcing an agreement reached with MillerCoors that will result in the nationwide discontinuance of the best-selling, pre-mixed alcoholic energy drink, Sparks. As part of the agreement, MillerCoors has also agreed not to produce any caffeinated alcohol beverages in the future. Today’s agreement comes after months of negotiations between Attorney General Cuomo’s Office and MillerCoors, where Cuomo urged the manufacturer to pull these dangerous drinks off New York shelves and stop aggressively marketing the alcoholic beverage to a young audience.

“Drinks like Sparks encourage the polar opposite of responsible drinking habits,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “Besides being aggressively marketed to a younger crowd, they are fundamentally dangerous and put drinkers of all ages at risk. Today’s agreement will ensure that from here on out, these drinks are kept off New York shelves and away from New York consumers.”

In early 2008, published research about the dangers of alcoholic energy drinks and concerns about the way the products were being marketed, led Attorney General Cuomo and several other Attorneys General across the country to initiate an investigation into the safety and marketing of MillerCoors Sparks brand products, which include Sparks Original, Sparks Light, Sparks Plus and an unreleased higher alcohol product called Sparks Red.

Attorney General Cuomo issued an investigative subpoena to MillerCoors in early January pursuant to New York’s consumer protection statutes. The investigation focused on false and misleading health-related statements about the energizing effects of Sparks brand products and on allegations that MillerCoors was marketing the products to an underage audience.

In addition to providing that MillerCoors will eliminate caffeine and other stimulants from its Sparks brand products, the settlement announced today addresses concerns about the marketing of Sparks. MillerCoors has agreed to stop using images in its marketing that imply energy or power, like the battery-themed +/- symbols on the can. MillerCoors has also agreed to cease particular marketing themes that appeal to underage youth, eliminating advertisements that feature a bright orange-stained tongue and not renewing its contract with William Ocean, an air guitar champion who does a back flip onto an opened can of Sparks at all of his shows. MillerCoors will also immediately discontinue the Sparks website.

A recently published Wake Forest University study found that college students who mix alcohol and energy drinks were more likely to be hurt, sexually assaulted or drive drunk than those who only drank alcohol.

In May, Attorney General Cuomo announced that Anheuser-Busch would stop producing alcoholic energy drinks, including Tilt and Bud Extra. With the elimination of Sparks from the market, nearly 85% of all alcoholic energy drinks that were available at the start of this year will be eliminated from the market. Attorney General Cuomo is continuing to work with other jurisdictions to investigate alcoholic energy drinks manufactured by other companies.

The investigation and settlement were handled by Assistant Attorney General Melvin Goldberg under the supervision of Consumer Frauds and Protection Bureau Chief Joy Feigenbaum.