Friday, July 25, 2008

Parents, Watch Out for "Alcohol Powder!"

Get ready for the latest twist in the fight against underage drinking: Alcohol you buy as a powder – and just mix with water. According to the website Scientific, the patent for “alcohol powder” has been around since 1969. Back then, food chemists found that a sugar derivative could absorb 60% of its weight in liquid. Meaning the alcohol content of a single cocktail could be stored inside one capsule of powder – about the size of a Tylenol. Until recently, the resulting alcohol powders were considered “unfit” for beverage purposes.

That all changed last year, when a Dutch company introduced a product called Booz-2-Go. It’s a powder you stir into a glass of water to create a bubbly, lime-flavored cocktail. More recently, a German company began offering 4 different flavors of a powder product called SubYou over the Internet. Later this year, a company called Pulver Spirits will introduce the first drinkable alcohol powder here in North America. Now, it’s important to note that the alcohol content in these powders is very small. In fact, it usually ranges between 3% and 5% after it’s mixed with water.

The issue that concerns most parents is who regulates these powders? Here in North America, the powder qualifies as an “alcopop.” That’s a crude term for flavored alcoholic beverages – like wine coolers and malt liquors – which combine a low alcohol content with the sweetness of soda pop. So, in this country, alcohol powders are regulated – and taxed - just like any other alcoholic beverage. A lot of other countries don’t regulate the powder at all – because their drinking laws only apply to liquids. So minors in The Netherlands, for example, are free to buy as much alcohol powder as they want! That kind of easy access could open the door for a new black market, where imported powder could be accessible in North America, or over the internet, to kids under the legal drinking age.

So be aware of what your kids are doing, especially online. Talk to them about drinking – research shows it works! Kids whose parents have “the alcohol talk” with them are less likely to start drinking.

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