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Youth and Community Groups Commend Rockstar for Taking 'The Buzz' out of its Energy Drinks

SACRAMENTO, Calif., Nov. 12 /PRNewswire/ -- California youth have teamed up with doctors, teachers, law enforcement officers and health experts to applaud Rockstar for announcing its intent to stop selling Rockstar 21, the company's alcoholic energy drink. Now, the California Coalition on Alcopops and Youth is calling on Anheuser Busch, Miller, and other producers of these pernicious alcohol-energy drinks to follow Rockstar's lead.

Sold in brightly colored cans, Rockstar is a well-known energy drink popular with teenagers. Young people, parents and even store clerks often confuse the alcoholic Rockstar 21 with its non-alcoholic counterpart. With 6% alcohol content, Rockstar 21 was a concern of parents because it often was sold alongside the non-alcoholic energy drinks. Public health advocates from across the nation have been recording stories involving alcohol-laced energy drinks and youth. In one California community, a middle-school principal found 12 students drinking energy drinks with alcohol on campus and in plain sight. Alarmed, the teachers said they had "no idea" the drinks contained alcohol. Elsewhere, a single mom gave what she thought was a refreshing beverage to her 13-year-old son. His teenaged sister noticed the product contained alcohol, just moments before the boy was to drink it. And law enforcement officers in one California suburb, after observing a young man stumbling down the street with an energy drink, discovered that it actually contained alcohol.

These stories illustrate a serious new trend. Young people are particularly vulnerable to the new alcohol-and-energy drink combination because caffeine, a stimulant, can make you feel less drunk than you really are. This promotes binge drinking and risk-taking behavior that too often results in traffic crashes, violence, sexual assault, and suicide. The hype producers use to promote alcoholic energy drinks only furthers their risk-taking potential: they are marketed as the perfect party drink because you can party harder and longer. With caffeine, ginseng, and guarana, these alcoholic energy drinks are enormously popular with teens and young adults alike because they build on the popularity of nonalcoholic energy drinks that have similar packaging. Marketers also use youth-oriented advertising themes, extreme sports sponsorships, and Internet sites popular with teens.

"These drinks taste very similar to each other. Most adults we have found can't tell which have alcohol in them," said Kellie Goodwin of the California Youth Council. Goodwin and other teens gave law enforcement officers and teachers energy drinks, some with alcohol some without, to see whether they could tell the difference. "On top of that, the alcohol industry labeling practices make it too hard to tell the difference between drinks that contain alcohol and those that don't. It's not surprising some parents are accidentally purchasing these items for their kids."

Researchers at Wake Forest University, Baptist Medical Center, found that college students who combine energy drinks with alcohol are more likely to drink excessively, get hurt, ride with a driver who is drunk, and sexually assault someone else. Additionally, according to a report from The Marin Institute ( 31 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds and 34 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds report regular consumption of energy drinks. "Alcohol problems among youth constitute a public health and safety crisis of major proportions. Alcohol in energy drinks creates a dangerous mix," said Michele Simon, JD, MPH, research and policy and director at the Main Institute and co-author of the report.

"As young people, we congratulate Rockstar for voluntarily pulling energy drinks with alcohol off the shelves," Kellie Goodwin said. "Other companies, like Anheuser-Busch, should follow Rock Star's lead. Our future depends on it." Please contact Judy Walsh-Jackson at (619) 947-2755.

Background: The California Coalition on Youth and Alcopops formed in 2005 to oppose AB 417, which would have redefined alcopops as beer instead of distilled spirits. This practice, which then Attorney General Bill Lockyer found to be illegal, resulted in lower taxes and greater availability. Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed this special interest legislation calling for more public debate and discussions; a call that has been heeded. The State Board of Equalization has decided to enforce California law by voting to correctly tax alcopops as distilled spirits instead of beer, raising the price and generating an estimated $40 million annually in new tax revenues, and there is bipartisan Legislative support for AB 346, which would require clearer labeling on alcopops containers. The Schwarzenegger Administration has not yet joined these continuing efforts. Alcopops are still sold in convenience stores and other venues popular with youth. We encourage the Governor to continue his leadership in protecting California's young people from aggressive alcohol industry marketing tactics by treating alcopops as distilled spirits and supporting new labeling requirements.

Contact: Judy Walsh-Jackson (619) 947-2755

SOURCE California Coalition on Alcopops and Youth
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