AG Calls Anheuser-Busch Irrepsonsible For Its Marketing Tactics Targeting Youth
Attorney General Hardy Myers today criticized Anheuser-Busch Companies, Inc. for producing and promoting alcohol energy drinks containing caffeine and other stimulants. Citing serious health concerns, Attorney General Myers called on the company to provide readable warning labels that alert consumers about the health risks posed by these products.
In a letter to Anheuser-Busch, Oregon's Attorney General, along with 27 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.
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 age 21. They are primarily marketed on websites featuring music particularly popular with young people.
"These alcoholic energy drinks are promoted and packaged in a way that is highly attractive to underage youth," Attorney General Myers said. "Drinks such as Spykes plainly and perniciously appeal to children in both taste and appearance, and their caffeine content dangerously masks the effects of 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."
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.
Because they are designated as flavored malt beverages, Spykes and similar drinks can be sold inexpensively and, in many states, distributed to grocery stores 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.
Other efforts to reduce underage drinking in Oregon include a package of bills proposed by Attorney General Myers on behalf of the AG's Underage Drinking Task Force. The bills, House Bills 2144 – 2152, are aimed at strengthening the enforcement of the state's laws regarding underage drinking, including enhanced penalties for Minors in Possession, increased access to treatment and driver license suspension for certain violations.
To view the AG's Underage Drinking Task Force bills, visit www.leg.state.or.us
Stephanie Soden, (503) 378-6002