Calling the new Blast by Colt 45 beverage a drinking "binge-in-a-can," 16 state attorneys general called on Pabst Brewing Co. to cut the alcohol content in its malt beverage and change its marketing for the drink.
Blast is a malt beverage that comes in four fruit flavors -- strawberry lemonade, blueberry pomegranate, grape and raspberry watermelon. Pabst's marketing campaign features hip-hop/rap music star Snoop Dogg in edgy commercials aimed squarely at the 20-something set. The 23.5-ounce single-serving cans pack an alcohol concentration of 12% -- the equivalent of almost five cans of beer.Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler penned the letter, which was signed by the other attorneys general and sent to Pabst. "At a time when we're fighting to prevent underage and binge drinking, we call upon Pabst to rethink the dangers posed by Blast, promoted by a popular hip-hop celebrity, as a 'binge-in-a-can' in sweet flavors and bright colors aimed at the youngest drinkers," Gansler said in a statement. "I hope our letter asking Pabst to take swift and responsible action will also be heeded by other companies who produce these unsafe 'supersized' alcopops."
The letter also compared Blast to alcoholic energy drinks that have been criticized over their marketing because they are packaged to look nearly identical to non-alcoholic energy drinks and consumers could unwittingly think they're safe to drink. The alcoholic energy drinks contain both booze and caffeine and the combination masks the effects of alcohol, creating a drunk-awake state. The alcoholic energy drinks are also sold in 23.5-ounce cans -- just like Blast -- and have between 6% and 12% alcohol offered in trendy flavors like watermelon.
Pabst refuted the letter's claims in a statement released by its public relations firm.
"Blast is only meant to be consumed by those above legal drinking age and does not contain caffeine," the company said in the recently released statement. "As with all Pabst products, our marketing efforts for Blast are focused on conveying the message of drinking responsibly. To that end, the alcohol content of Blast is clearly marked on its packaging, we are encouraging consumers to consider mixing Blast with other beverages or enjoy it over ice, and we are offering a special 7-ounce bottle for those who prefer a smaller quantity, among other important initiatives."
Gansler's letter said the level of alcohol in Blast is high enough that if someone drank the entire can, it would be considered binge drinking. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said binge drinkers account for more than half of the 79,000 annual alcohol-related deaths in the United States.
The letter was signed by attorneys general from Arizona, California, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, Washington and Guam, as well as the city attorney of San Francisco.
California's Marin Institute applauded the letter, which comes on the heels of a petition drive by the alcohol industry watchdog group to stop marketing to youth and to fire Snoop Dogg -- popular with the under-21 crowd -- as its spokesman.
"Unfortunately a number of flavored, malt beverage alcopops are supersized," Marin Institute Executive Director Bruce Lee Livingston said in a statement. "We are hopeful that other attorneys general join this action against Blast, and also include similar dangerous products like Four Loko, Joose and Tilt."
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