Depending on where you live, there may be a new alcohol product coming to a store near you this summer. The product is called Palcohol, a powered form of alcohol.
The plan is for powdered pouches of Palcohol to be sold as either vodka, rum or one of three flavored mixed drink options – “Cosmopolitan,” “Lemon Drop” and “Powderita” (made to taste like a margarita). Consumers will then add six ounces of water per packet to get one mixed drink with the equivalent of one shot of liquor.
The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) approved labels for Palcohol in March and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has previously reported no issues with the non-alcohol ingredients in the product. But even though the federal government approved it, Palcohol still has a few hurdles to overcome before it appears on a shelf in your local liquor store.
Alcohol is regulated at the state level in the U.S., so once a product receives federal approval it can go on sale in most states. But in the case of powdered alcohol, several states, including Alaska, Louisiana, South Carolina, Utah, Vermont and Virginia have already pre-emptively banned the product as of April 2015. More than two dozen other states are poised to debate how to handle powdered alcohol during their own legislative sessions this year.
Several groups, including lawmakers, have health and safety concerns regarding powdered alcohol. Many are worried that powdered alcohol will lead to a new wave of underage abuse, comparing it to the now banned alcoholic energy drink Four Loko. Lawmakers also worry that the powder sold in a small pouch could easily be snuck into bars, restaurants and sporting events, cutting into profits for those businesses and the tax revenue states rely on.
Additional health and safety concerns of powdered alcohol include the following:
- Excessive alcohol consumption – adding powdered alcohol to an existing alcoholic beverage would make it difficult to tell how much alcohol is in a drink. Mixing less water than the recommended six ounces into the pouch could produce a similar problem.
- It’s been suggested that powdered alcohol could be snorted.
- Others have suggested powdered alcohol could be used to spike a drink without someone’s knowledge.
- Palcohol’s proposed packaging has a strong resemblance to Capri Sun, a single-serving drink that comes in a foil package and is marketed to kids.
If you do see Palcohol at a store near you this summer, just remember that powdered alcohol has all the same health risks as liquid alcohol. For example, mixing powdered alcohol with energy drinks that contain caffeine could bring on the same dangerous effects discussed in this recent Lifelines article.
The LHSFNA offers several publications that discuss the health risks of alcohol, including the Drinking and Driving: Not the Road to Take and It’s Your Choice When You Know the Facts About Drugs and Alcohol pamphlets. These and other publications can be ordered through the Fund’s online Publications Catalogue.
[Jamie Becker is the LHSFNA Health Promotion Division’s Associate Director.]