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Sparks: Alcohol-Energy Drinks  

Do you know what is in your child’s ‘energy drink’?  An alcoholic beverage, premixed with caffeine and other ingredients, is being sold locally at bars, liquor stores, some gas station/convenience stores and supermarkets.   Many of these drinks contain up to 7% alcohol – almost twice as much as some beers.

A CBS-TV affiliate in Florida investigated Sparks and other alcoholic-energy drinks.  You can find their results here:

Part 1 the CBS news team finds that one can of Sparks contains 214 milligrams of caffeine, or as much as 6 cans of cola. A reporter also opts to consume three cans of Sparks on-camera and finds that although her blood alcohol level spikes to one and a half times the legal limit, she feels deceptively "awake and alert."

Part 2 featured Marin Institute's Michele Simon, Wake Forest University's Dr. Mary Claire O'Brien, and Maine's Attorney General G. Steven Rowe, the head of the National Association of Attorneys General Youth Access to Alcohol Committee. Rowe plans to use the research done by CBS Miami to launch a federal investigation into Sparks' caffeine content.

One alarming fact that emerged from the investigation: “A Miller Brewing Company customer service representative told the I-Team Sparks contains about 15 milligrams of caffeine per can, far less than a cup of coffee.  But the I-Team had a sample of Sparks tested by Kappa Labs, and the report showed the contents of one can contained 214 milligrams of caffeine, about the amount of caffeine in 2 average cups of coffee.”

Caffeine does not change the way alcohol affects the drinker’s body, but it still acts as a stimulant.   Because the caffeine and other ingredients keep users awake longer, they tend to drink more.  They may have a false sense of sobriety and the caffeine/carbonation combination gets the alcohol into the bloodstream faster.

The packaging of these drinks resembles other energy drinks, down to the colors and script.    29 state attorneys general have already expressed concern about the marketing and safety risks posed by these drinks to young people.  One of the more popular products is a fruit-flavored drink called Sparks, sold by the Miller Brewing Company.  Its website is designed to appeal to younger people, resembling a student’s notebook with cartoon-like graphics. 

Popular social networking sites like MySpace and You Tube have numerous sites devoted to these beverages, with users looking to hook up with others interested in “getting hyper and drunk at the same time.”

Please check out the CBS4 reports and then take a close look at the energy drinks your child has on hand.   You can urge CBS to take this story national, and contact the South Dakota Attorney General’s office with your concerns. 

 

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