MADIGAN, OTHER ATTORNEYS GENERAL SUCCEED AT ENDING MANUFACTURE AND SALE OF ALCOHOLIC ENERGY DRINKS BY ANHEUSER-BUSCH
Chicago — Attorney General Lisa Madigan today announced that the 11-state Attorney General investigation into Anheuser-Busch sales tactics for alcohol energy drinks has successfully resulted in the company discontinuing the manufacture, marketing and sale of its two popular pre-mixed alcoholic energy drinks, Tilt and Bud Extra. The company also will cease future production of caffeinated alcoholic beverages. The investigation, in which Madigan’s office participated, questioned whether Anheuser-Busch made false or misleading health-related statements about the energizing effects of Tilt and Bud Extra.
“Anheuser-Busch has made the right decision to pull these potentially dangerous beverages from the market, and I urge other manufacturers to follow its lead to get all caffeinated alcoholic beverages off store shelves,” Attorney General Madigan said. “I am concerned these drinks are extremely dangerous in the hands of young people. They contain substantially more caffeine than coffee or soda and are marketed to be consumed in combination with other alcoholic beverages. This is an inappropriate message to send consumers, especially younger audiences.”
The investigation looked at Anheuser-Busch’s aggressive marketing campaigns for Tilt and Bud Extra. These highly caffeinated “alcopops” are popular with young people, who often incorrectly believe that the caffeine in the drinks will counteract the effects of the alcohol. While Anheuser-Busch denied the allegations, it fully cooperated with the investigation and quickly decided to reformulate Tilt and Bud Extra without caffeine or other stimulants.
“Alcohol mixed with high amounts of caffeine is a recipe for disaster, particularly in the hands of young people,” said Maine Attorney General Steve Rowe, Chair of the National Association of Attorneys General Youth Access to Alcohol Committee. “The caffeine gives drinkers the subjective belief that they function without impairment. This false belief results in the potential for increased serious harm.”
Attorney General Madigan said the dangerous combination of caffeine and alcohol raise the risk for injury and unhealthy drinking habits. A recently study by Dr. Mary Claire O’Brien of Wake Forest University found that college students who mix alcohol and energy drinks engage in increased heavy episodic drinking and have twice as many episodes of weekly drunkenness. College students who reported consuming alcohol mixed with energy drinks also had significantly higher prevalence of alcohol-related consequences, like sexual assault and injury.
Attorney General Madigan’s office participated in the investigation with Attorneys General in Arizona, California, Connecticut, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, New Mexico, New York and Ohio.
The Attorney General’s negotiations with Anheuser-Busch are only her latest steps to protect young people from the marketing of harmful products.
In August 2007, Madigan signed on to a letter urging the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), the federal agency responsible for monitoring marketing of alcohol, to increase its efforts to prevent misleading claims by alcoholic energy drinks. Similarly, in May 2007, Madigan joined other Attorneys General in urging Anheuser-Busch to adjust its advertising of another alcoholic energy drink, called Spykes. In response, Anheuser-Busch pulled Spykes from stores. Madigan also signed on a letter urging Anheuser-Busch to require additional information for verification before visitors may access one of its popular product websites; the company installed an age verification program on its site so that visitors must provide first and last names, zip code, and date of birth.
Madigan has also taken action to protect young people from the marketing of non-alcoholic energy drinks as illicit drugs. In May, the Attorney General demanded the Las Vegas company Kingpin Concepts, Inc., discontinue its cocaine-themed marketing and sale of an energy drink named “Blow,” a drink mix that glorifies drug culture and has raised serious health concerns due to its high caffeine content. Kingpin has agreed to cease sales of the product in Illinois. In May 2007, Madigan reached a similar agreement with the California-based Redux Beverages, LLC, for its distribution of an energy drink named “Cocaine.”
Additionally, in October 2006, Madigan and the attorneys general of 38 other states and jurisdictions entered a settlement with R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company (RJR) to end its sale of candy, fruit and alcohol flavored cigarettes that the Attorneys General believe had been targeted at youth. Madigan is currently in mediation with RJR over the Attorney General’s claim that its use of cartoons in its advertisements is a violation of the 1998 Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement (MSA). That agreement, which the tobacco industry signed to end the national tobacco litigation, expressly prohibits the use of cartoons to advertise or promote cigarettes.