SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – Sparks, an alcoholic energy drink, is now off the shelves in 13 states due to safety risks and advertisements directed at minors. The settlement late last week between state governments and the brand’s parent company will reduce the national market of such drinks by 90%.
“We believe these products represent a health and safety risk” says Abraham Arredondo, an attorney with the California Attorney General’s Office.
The brand had originally passed all state and federal regulatory approval.
Alcoholic energy drinks are unique because they are a mix of 6-12% alcohol and stimulants. After drinking the combination, a consumer feels alert despite suffering the same slow reaction time and diminished judgment associated with alcohol.
The settlement asserts that MillerCoors failed to inform consumers about this effect, in addition to its concerns about the health and safety risk of the drinks.
In 1998, 46 states and the six largest tobacco companies settled after the tobacco industry was accused of advertising to minors. The companies agreed to change their marketing strategy, but not to pull their tobacco products from the market.
In Thursday’s settlement however, MillerCoors agreed to discontinue Sparks.
When asked to justify this difference, Arredondo explained that Sparks is a safety concern, whereas tobacco products weren’t: “Our concern is with the product itself and not just the marketing.”
Despite their concerns about mixes of alcohol and stimulants, the states are not pursuing bars which sell a common mix of Red Bull and vodka.
Before it is allowed back on the market, Sparks must no longer contain stimulants, which include caffeine, taurine, guarana, and ginseng.
Under the agreement, MillerCoors cannot promote the mixing of caffeine with alcohol, must not advertise an energizing effect of the drinks, and must warn retailers that the reformulated Sparks brand will still contain alcohol.
The drinks will no longer be sold in California, Arizona, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, or Oklahoma.
The 13 states will now investigate smaller alcoholic energy drink producers.