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Researcher’s Work Continues to Support Arguments Against Alcoholic Energy Drinks

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – A Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center researcher’s study about the effects of alcoholic energy drinks (AED) is cited by the attorneys general from 25 states who have called on a leading manufacturer not to introduce a new beverage into the marketplace.

In a letter dated Sept. 17 to W. Leo Kiely, the chief executive officer and president of MillerCoors LLC, the attorneys general express their concerns that Sparks Red, the company’s latest introduction, poses “a serious health and safety risk for America’s youth.” Sparks Red “will contain as much as 8 percent alcohol by volume – a significant increase over the alcohol content found in other AEDs,” the attorneys general state.

MillerCoors issued a statement last week saying it has put its Oct. 1 debut of Sparks Red on hold while talks are pending with the attorneys general. Sparks Red was to be an extension of MillerCoors' existing caffeine-laced alcoholic beverages line.

The attorneys general cite a 2007 study by Mary Claire O’Brien, M.D., associate professor of emergency medicine and public health sciences at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. The study – “Caffeinated Cocktails: Energy Drink Consumption, High-risk Drinking and Alcohol-related Consequences Among College Students” – was published in Academic Emergency Medicine earlier this year. O’Brien’s research found that college students who reported consuming alcohol mixed with energy drinks also had significantly higher prevalence of alcohol-related consequences such as sexual assault and injury.

"In answer to the attorneys general, and in the interest of responsible beverage service, I call on Miller to reconsider the introduction of Sparks Red," said O’Brien.

Alcohol energy drinks taste and look like non-alcoholic energy drinks. O’Brien said they are popular with young people, who often believe, incorrectly, that the caffeine in the drinks will counteract the intoxicating effects of the alcohol.

The attorneys general represent the following states: Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

In June Anheuser-Busch agreed to stop making alcohol drinks containing caffeine or other stimulants following legal action by attorneys general of 10 states. Anheuser-Busch also agreed to reformulate Tilt and Bud Extra, two popular alcohol energy drinks.

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