Look out for ‘alco-pops’

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By The Staff

MADD KY State Youth Program Coordinator

Alcoholic versus non-alcoholic: think you could tell the difference?  You may want to think again.  Alco-pops are flavored malt-beverages to which fruit juices, sweeteners, wine, and/or distilled liquor have been added.  Alco-pops present a potentially serious health threat to youth. 

These beverages can be particularly appealing to underage drinkers. Due their sweet flavor, Alco-pops are often referred to as trainer drinks for those who have not yet developed a taste for alcohol.  Flavored malt beverages may not taste like alcohol, but some contain more than three-times as much alcohol as a regular beer. 

A new trend of Alco-pops has recently entered the already youth driven market of energy drinks.  In 2007, 500 new energy drinks were introduced into market. Of the brands that launched these, 20 drinks were alcoholic.  Alcoholic energy drinks present an increased health risk to teens.  The stimulant effects of the energy drinks mask the depressant effects of the alcohol, and create the impression the person is not impaired.  If a teen cannot taste the alcohol, and does not feel the immediate effects of the alcohol; then they are more likely to binge drink and become over-intoxicated, often resulting in alcohol poisoning, coma, or death.

Alco-pops not only mimic the taste of non-alcoholic drinks; they are also packaged to resemble non-alcoholic beverages, causing most adults to have difficulty telling them apart from non-alcoholic drinks.  For example, a dad and his son enter the local filling station.  Dad tells his son to get something to drink.  His son removes an energy drink from the cooler, and places it by the register.  The energy drink the youth has chosen contains alcohol, but since dad looks above the age of 21, the clerk does not ask him for an ID.  Dad unknowingly just bought his son alcohol, and his son is drinking it on the way home.

The Kentucky Mothers Against Drunk Driving has developed a comprehensive approach to educate adults to identify Alco-pops from non-alcoholic beverages. MADD recommends the following tips to adults to identify alcoholic from non-alcoholic beverages: (1) Read the can.  Alcoholic drinks will often read, “Warning this beverage contains alcohol.”  (2) Alcoholic beverages will carry the Surgeon General’s Warning and the percent of alcohol by volume.  (3) Non-alcoholic drinks will always contain nutrition facts.     

Underage drinking kills more youth than all other illicit drugs combined.  Alcohol is particularly harmful to the teen brain which develops into early-mid 20s.  Traffic crashes are the No. 1 killer of teenagers, and approximately one-third of these crashes are alcohol related.  Underage drinking is no longer just a weekend pastime; it is teens drinking with the goal to get drunk.  Learn more how you can support the legal drinking age at www.madd.org.  For more details about Alco-pops contact the MADD KY State Office at 1-800-944-6233, or visit www.madd.org/ky. 

The Henry County CARE Team is proud to have Mothers Against Drunk Drivers as a coalition partner.  For more information about the work of the Henry County CARE Team, please contact our office at (502) 878-0001.  You can also make plans to attend our monthly coalition meetings held on the second Wednesday of each month at the Henry County Public Library.  The meetings are held at NOON and lunch is provided, however, we do request an RSVP and a minimal monetary donation of $3.00 to help off-set the cost of the meal.  We hope that you will consider joining the “Team”!