Attorney General Cuomo Criticizes Anheuser-busch For Irresponsibly Targeting Youth With Alcohol Energy Drinks
New York (May 10, 2007) - Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today criticized Anheuser-Busch Companies, Inc. for promoting alcohol energy drinks containing caffeine and other stimulants without warning consumers about the health risks posed by these products. Raising specific concerns about the illegible labels, Cuomo called on the company to provide readable warnings about the risks of mixing energy drinks with alcohol.
In a letter to Anheuser-Busch, Attorney General , along with 29 other state attorneys general, noted 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. The stimulant in the energy drink may skew a person’s sense of alertness – without reducing the adverse effect of the alcohol on that person’s motor skills or ability to react quickly.
“These alcoholic energy drinks are promoted and packaged in a way that is highly attractive to underage youth,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “Drinks such as Spykes appeal to children but their caffeine content dangerously masks the effects of the alcohol. If Anheuser-Busch 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.”
Anheuser-Busch’s caffeinated alcoholic beverages include Spykes, TILT and Bud Extra. These drinks with a caffeine kick are similar in nature to non-alcoholic energy drinks currently popular with youth under 21. They are primarily marketed on websites featuring music particularly popular with young people.
Spykes is available only in fruit and chocolate flavors, and comes in small, attractive, brightly colored, plastic containers that can be easily concealed in a pocket or purse. Advertisements for Spykes, TILT and Bud Extra also tout the products’ caffeine content and other additives that youth are likely to associate with popular non-alcoholic energy drinks. Spykes contains 12 percent alcohol by volume – more than twice that of most flavored malt beverages and beers.
Spykes and similar drinks are sold inexpensively because they are designated as flavored malt beverages. Additionally, several states allow these drinks to be distributed to grocery and convenience stores, where they may be more readily seen and purchased by underage youth than if they were sold only in liquor stores.
The Attorneys General believe that these types of alcohol energy drinks must include a warning to consumers about the risks of mixing energy drinks with alcohol. The letter to Anheuser-Busch raises specific concerns about the illegible health warnings on the Spykes product. Recently, the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau made clear that it agreed with these concerns, finding that several Spykes labels violate federal law. Anheuser-Busch has agreed to stop production and to replace the product labels. The Attorneys General call upon the company to act promptly to address their remaining concerns about the production and marketing of these products.