The Demise of Alcopops

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Anheuser-Busch Will Stop Selling Alcoholic Energy Drinks
Miller Brewing Company to Drop "Alcospeed" Drinks
A Sample Letter

Anheuser-Busch Will Stop Selling Alcoholic Energy Drinks

Leading U.S. brewer Anheuser-Busch has agreed to stop selling energy drinks containing alcohol in response to an investigation by a group of state attorneys general, Reuters reported June 26.

The brewer also reached a similar settlement with the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), in which it pledged to call on other alcohol producers to also stop making pre-packaged caffeinated alcohol beverages, according to a June 26 CSPI press release.

"We have determined that competing in the prepackaged caffeinated alcohol beverage sector may detract from our reputation as the global industry leader in promoting responsibility among adults who drink and discouraging underage drinking," said Francine Katz, vice president of communications and consumer affairs for the company.

Anheuser-Busch said it would stop making caffeinated versions of its Bud Extra and Tilt beverages and also remove the stimulant guarana from the products. The company also will pay $200,000 to the states that took part in the investigation.

Attorneys general from 11 states launched an investigation into alcoholic energy drinks produced by more than a dozen companies, including market leader Miller SAB, which produces Sparks. The AGs praised Anheuser-Busch's decision but also noted that their investigation found that the company made false and misleading statements about the health effects of Tilt and Bud Extra and that ads for the products were aimed at consumers under age 21.

"We were concerned that these beverages were being aggressively marketed over the Internet with a strong focus on college populations," said Maine Attorney General Steven Rowe. "The nature and tenor and content of the ads was clearly targeting underage drinkers as well as others," added Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest, which threatened to sue Anheuser-Busch and other manufacturers of alcoholic energy drinks, called on Miller to follow Anheuser-Busch's lead in dropping the products. "Failure to do so will signal Miller Brewing Company's callous indifference to youth alcohol problems and its insistence on profits at the expense of public health and safety," reads a CSPI letter that the advocacy group is urging supporters to send to Miller President and CEO Tom Long.

“We are pleased that Anheuser-Busch has agreed to take the caffeine and other stimulants out of its alcoholic drinks, and that it was not necessary to formally proceed with litigation,” said CSPI alcohol policies project director George A. Hacker. “We particularly appreciate the call that Anheuser-Busch is making to distillers and other brewers to likewise reformulate these ill-conceived products.”

Miller Brewing Company to Drop "Alcospeed" Drinks

After threats of litigation from the Center for Science in the Public Interest and an investigation by 11 state attorneys general into the marketing of flavored malt beverages containing stimulants caffeine, guarana, and ginseng, Anheuser-Busch, Inc. entered into a binding, legal settlement, agreeing to discontinue the production and marketing of caffeinated alcoholic beverages (Bud Extra, Tilt). As part of the settlement, Anheuser-Busch will call on all distillers and brewers to stop making pre-packaged caffeinated alcoholic beverages.

Please send Miller’s president an immediate message, demanding that Miller Brewing Company follow Anheuser-Busch’s responsible leadership in taking alcoholic energy drinks off the market. If you wish, add a personal touch to the letter, such as your role as an alcohol-prevention specialist/treatment counselor/children's advocate/college health official/parent, or your concern about your teenage or college children, fear of “wide-awake” drunks on the road, etc.

Talking Points

CSPI and others have opposed the alcoholic energy drinks because the safety of consuming stimulants and alcohol together was not assured and the stimulant ingredients had not been officially approved for use in alcoholic beverages. Additionally, new research evidence indicates that young consumers of caffeinated alcoholic drinks were more likely to binge drink, become injured, ride with an intoxicated driver, and be the victim of a sexual assault than drinkers of conventional alcoholic drinks.

Miller Brewing Company markets Sparks, another popular pre-packaged alcoholic energy drink that contains caffeine, taurine, guarana-ginseng blend. Sparks Light contains 6.0% alcohol by volume and Sparks Plus has 7% alcohol by volume. So far, Miller Brewing Company, which also received CSPI’s notice of intent to sue in February, has refused to negotiate and has refused to remove Sparks from the market.

A Sample Letter

Dear Mr. Long,

(Edit Letter Below)

I am writing to you because I am concerned about young people and about the risks they face when they consume alcoholic beverages. Teenagers are among those who are at highest risk of a great variety of alcohol-related harms, including auto crashes, inter-personal violence, sexual victimization, suicide, unintentional injuries, and scholastic failure. Therefore, I find it totally unconscionable that Miller Brewing Company produces and markets Sparks, an alcoholic energy drink laced with stimulants that elevate those risks.

Other brewers, including your competitor Anheuser-Busch, have responded to public concern and official inquiries by agreeing voluntarily to discontinue producing and marketing pre-packaged caffeinated alcoholic beverages. I call on Miller Brewing Company to follow A-B's responsible lead by immediately halting its production and distribution of Sparks and agreeing not to produce or market caffeinated alcoholic drinks in the future. Failure to do so will signal Miller Brewing Company's callous indifference to youth alcohol problems and its insistence on profits at the expense of public health and safety.


[Your name]
[Your address]

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