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Attorney General Brown Reaches Agreement with MillerCoors to Ban Sale of Alcoholic Energy Drinks

Thursday, December 18, 2008
Contact: (415) 703-5837, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

December 18, 2008
Contact: Christine Gasparac (916) 324-5500

Attorney General Brown Reaches Agreement with MillerCoors to Ban Sale of Alcoholic Energy Drinks

SAN FRANCISCO– California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. today announced that 13 states and the City of San Francisco have forged an agreement with MillerCoors to stop “the growing and widespread use” of caffeine-spiked alcoholic beverages, often marketed to young adults.

“With this agreement, we’re shutting down 90% of the market in caffeine-spiked alcoholic beverages,” said Attorney General Brown. “The growing and widespread use of caffeine mixed with alcohol can distort judgment, weaken inhibitions and encourage risky behavior, especially in young people.” Brown added.

Alcoholic energy drinks mix alcohol with ingredients like caffeine, guarana, taurine or ginseng. The alcoholic content in these drinks range from 6-12% per volume, more than most beers. Together, the stimulating effect of caffeine in the beverage mixed with the alcohol can mask how intoxicated the drinker actually is. A drinker may feel alert, but will still suffer the debilitating effects of alcohol consumption, including diminished reaction times and basic motor skills.

Sparks currently has 90% of the market share for alcoholic energy drinks. Last June, Attorney General Brown and other attorneys general announced that Anheuser-Busch had signed an agreement to stop producing its alcoholic energy drinks. With today’s agreement, most of the alcoholic energy drinks that were available in the beginning of the year will now be taken off the market. California and the other states will continue to investigate the smaller companies that continue to sell alcoholic energy drinks.

Young people are most vulnerable to the effects of alcoholic energy drinks like Sparks because they are prone to engage in risky behaviors such as binge-drinking and are less experienced in gauging the debilitating effects of alcohol. They are also more at risk of acute alcohol problems, including traffic crashes, violence, sexual assault, and suicide.

A study by researchers at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine found that students who consumed alcoholic energy beverages were twice as likely to be involved in alcohol-related accidents and injuries. They were also more likely to be involved in sexual assaults or drunk driving.

After an investigation into the product, Attorney General Brown and the participating attorneys general alleged that Sparks was unsafe, MillerCoors was making false or misleading health-related statements about Sparks’ energizing effects, and much of the marketing was directed toward youth, a violation of California laws on marketing tobacco or alcoholic products to minors.

Under today’s settlement agreement, MillerCoors will:

• Cease manufacturing and marketing all caffeinated alcoholic beverages, including Sparks,

• Reformulate Sparks so that it does not contain stimulants, including caffeine, guarana, taurine or ginseng, and eliminate the use of images that suggest an energizing effect,

• Not promote the mixing of caffeinated products with alcoholic beverages,

• Inform distributors and retailers that reformulated Sparks contains alcohol, but no caffeine, and Sparks should be displayed separate from non-alcoholic energy drinks. The company will also immediately discontinue its current Sparks website without directing visitors to a new site.

California was joined in this settlement by Arizona, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, and the City and County of San Francisco.

The agreement is attached.

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PDF icon Agreement89.34 KB

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