Alcohol: energy drinks

Ms GRALEY (Narre Warren South) — A 2010 article in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine entitled ‘Caffeinated Alcoholic Beverages — An Emerging Public Health Problem’ by Jonathan Howland and others shows that bar patrons who consumed caffeinated alcoholic beverages had a threefold risk of leaving the bar highly intoxicated compared with those who consumed alcohol without caffeine and a fourfold risk of intending to drive after leaving the bar.

Another study concluded that students who consumed caffeinated alcoholic beverages had approximately double the risk of experiencing or committing sexual assault, riding with an intoxicated driver, having an alcohol-related accident or requiring medical treatment.

Multiple states in the United States have banned caffeinated alcoholic beverages, and the US Food and Drug Administration has issued warnings to four companies to remove their products from the marketplace.

The FDA’s key concern was that these products led to young drinkers entering a state which the FDA said could lead to consumers, often young people — entering a state known as ‘wide awake drunk’. The Australian Medical Association is calling for legislation to ban alcoholic energy drinks.

Responsible corporate citizens like Foster’s and Lion no longer produce these diabolical drinks, choosing to pre-empt the findings of the intergovernmental task force on drugs and take the safest possible course of action. I cannot commend them enough for this decision. We understood last year that Independent Distillers had agreed informally to stop marketing its caffeinated alcopop product, Pulse, until the Intergovernmental Committee on Drugs made its recommendations. Whilst not as commendable an action as its competitors’, this was still a reasonable outcome. Independent Distillers has since been purchased by multinational alcohol giant Asahi.

Independent Distillers has now trashed the agreement not to aggressively market these turbocharged alcopops while the government conducts its critical research. In fact Pulse has been reformulated with new flavours added and is now being aggressively relaunched with more shelf space in bottle shops than ever.

The Asahi-Independent Distillers Pulse product now contains South American guarana, added specifically to keep drinkers awake and drinking more than they should, despite intoxication. It is no wonder there is a Facebook page called ‘3-Pulse-vodka-energy-drink-it-makes-me-drunk-and-hypo’.

The Minister for Health has stated that he is waiting for the intergovernmental committee to do something about it before he considers acting. Let us be clear: Asahi’s licence to manufacture alcohol in Victoria is granted by the Victorian government. How many more people have to die before the government acts? I call on the minister to demand that Asahi and Independent Distillers honour their word, given prior to the Asahi takeover, and stop the wilful poisoning of our children before more lives are lost.