I'm not a big fan of caffeinated beer or, if you prefer, alcoholic energy drinks. My interest here is in the politicians who love them, and love to misrepresent them for political purposes.
"Disgusting" is what Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler called them. "The caffeine is a stimulant that triggers the false impression that kids can drink more and still function normally. The kids won't recognize they are actually drunk...And then all of a sudden, over a short period of time, it goes BAM, and they're gone."
That's right. It goes BAM! And they're gone. All of a sudden.
This notion that caffeine somehow masks intoxication is bogus, just like the common but mistaken belief that caffeine is a remedy for intoxication.
Gansler's ridiculous statement is quoted in a May, 2008, Time Magazine story by John Cloud, who himself offers the ridiculous conclusion that "alcoholic energy drinks are different because they are so obviously marketed to kids."
That was written before pressure from politicians, the public health agencies they control, and the well-funded advocacy groups that generate this nonsense, forced the two biggest U.S. malt beverage manufacturers, Anheuser-Busch InBev and MillerCoors, to stop making alcoholic energy drinks and pledge never to make them again.
Lies about alcoholic energy drinks are spread by advocacy groups that sensationalize the risks of alcohol consumption, and demonize alcohol producers, usually with wildly exaggerated or entirely false claims.
Some people call these groups neo-prohibitionists or "new dries." Their primary purpose seems to be ensuring their own revenue growth, though in the process they make a nuisance of themselves to everyone who enjoys alcohol in a normal and responsible way, which is almost everybody. Their best lie is the one about companies marketing alcoholic beverages to children, which none do.
I write about this from time to time, most recently about two weeks ago when FDA announced that manufacturers of alcoholic energy drinks must prove their products are safe. The irony here is that the only reason FDA can do this is because of the way alcohol is regulated in this country. All of the ingredients in these beverages, other than alcohol, are Generally Regarded As Safe by FDA (the term is in caps because as FDA uses it, it has a specific legal meaning).
What the manufacturers really have to prove is that alcohol doesn't change one or more of the ingredients for the worse. Can they do it? Maybe, maybe not. Maybe they'll just fold their tents like Anheuser-Busch InBev and MillerCoors did. If they couldn't take the pressure, how can these little guys?
The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) praised FDA's decision in part because, "emerging research suggests that the young consumers of these products are more likely to be the perpetrator or victim of sexual aggression, to ride with an intoxicated driver, or to become otherwise injured."
Who wouldn't want to prevent those bad things?
Energy drinks, including alcoholic ones, typically contain some or all of the following: sugar, caffeine, taurine, niacin, vitamins B-12 and B-6, ginseng, ginkgo, and other herbs and dietary supplements commonly associated with energy and alertness. The alcohol content is usually about the same as a beer, although one brand is more like a malt liquor.
Nutritionists say the perceived energy boost comes primarily from sugar and caffeine. Opinions vary about the efficacy of the other ingredients. People have been mixing sugar, caffeine and alcohol forever, from rum and coke to Irish coffee. There is no mystery there.
Most people don't know these facts, and furthermore don't care, because they want those horrible booze merchants to stop selling these terrible products to their kids. All the lies work because people are so ready to believe them. That makes them perfect for cynical politicians, and is there really any other kind?