NEWS

Powdered alcohol approval stirs U.S. controversy

03/12/2015 01:07 EDT | Updated 05/12/2015 05:59 EDT
The U.S. alcohol regulator has approved a new powdered alcohol product that's stirring up trouble even before it hits the retail market.

Palcohol is a powdered alcohol substitute in four flavours that can be mixed with water to create vodka, rum or mixed drinks such as a cosmopolitan or a margarita.

Company founder Mark Phillips said he plans to sell Palcohol, which comes in single-serving packages, in retail stores and online by this summer.

But since regulating alcohol is a state jurisdiction, states are already lining up with objections to the idea.

Among their concerns are whether people would accurately judge the amount of alcohol they have consumed with a powdered product, whether it would be easier to sneak Palcohol into a public event and whether it would be abused by minors.

New York Sen. Chuck Schumer says he plans to introduce a bill in the U.S. Senate on Thursday that would ban powdered alcohol nationwide. He was reacting to requests from numerous states for a ruling against the product.

"When you drink regular alcohol, beer, wine, hard liquor, it's in liquid form — you can't ingest that much that quickly. But when it's powdered form, you can ingest a whole lot and do real damage to yourself," Schumer said.

Schumer called Palcohol "Koolaid for underage drinking" and said he feared the product would be marketed directly to minors.

But Phillips, in an interview on CBS This Morning, dismissed the proposal to ban powdered alcohol as an overreaction.

He said he believed the main use would be by people doing outdoor activities who didn’t want to carry heavy beverage bottles for alcohol.

"If they're an outdoor enthusiast and they're going hiking, backpacking, biking, kayaking, boating — anywhere where weight is an issue, having powdered alcohol is a lot lighter than liquid alcohol," Phillips said.

In a statement on the Palcohol website, he called concerns that people might snort the drinks for a quicker buzz ridiculous.

"It really burns to snort it," Phillips said. "Really uncomfortable. Because it's alcohol. As you would if you sniffed liquid vodka, it would burn like crazy."

Each vodka packet of Palcohol contains enough alcohol to fill one shot glass, Phillips said, but is actually quite large and would be less easy to conceal than a bottle of liquor. He said the potential for abuse is about the same as any alcoholic beverage.

The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau which approved Palcohol said potential for abuse is no reason to ban a product.

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