Powdered Alcohol Raising Concerns About Underage Drinking and Drunk Driving

Powdered alcohol may be widely available for sale soon, and that is raising concerns about what this new form of alcohol could mean for underage drinking, drunk driving, and public safety.

Feds approve Palcohol

The buzz about powdered alcohol—branded as Palcohol®—started last year when the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) initially approved the product for commercial sale and then retracted their approval as a “mistake.” In the fall Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) introduced a bill in the Senate to create a federal ban on the product, which is still in committee. This past March the TTB once again approved Palcohol for sale, paving the way for it to hit store shelves this summer.

The product’s inventor says he is an avid hiker and outdoorsman, which gave him the idea to create a form of alcohol that he could take on trips without adding weight to his packs. The powdered alcohol comes in one-ounce packets flavored like rum, vodka, or popular cocktails. Add the powder to water, shake, and presto: an instant cosmopolitan on the go.

Alcohol you can take anywhere

But legislators and law enforcement agencies around the country are concerned that Palcohol could give kids more access to booze and allow people to sneak powdered “drinks” into venues. For example, many sporting events stop alcohol sales well before the end of the game to discourage drunk driving. With packets of Palcohol hidden in a purse or pocket, spectators could keep the party going right up to the last play by adding the powder to their soda or water. Some critics also worry about the increased potential for alcohol poisoning if drinkers create “super-charged” concoctions by mixing the powder with liquid alcohol.

Lawmakers react to powdered alcohol

In response to these concerns, in the past few weeks several states have banned Palcohol and several others are considering similar measures before the product reaches stores. In addition, Sen. Schumer has indicated he will introduce a new bill that would make it illegal to produce, sell, or possess powdered alcohol.

But supporters of the product say that officials are overreacting and basing their concerns on imagined consequences rather than facts, given that powdered alcohol is not yet available to consumers. Furthermore, they point out that powdered alcohol will be regulated and sold in the same way as it’s liquid counterpart and claim that problems are no more likely to occur with Palcohol than with regular booze.

Do you think states are right to ban powdered alcohol, or should it be treated the same as beer, wine, and spirits?