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June 26, 2008

Anheuser-Busch to Discontinue All "Alcoholic Energy Drinks"

State AGs call on other manufacturers to follow Anheuser-Busch’s lead

Attorneys general from eleven states have reached an agreement with Anheuser-Busch that will result in the nationwide discontinuance of two popular pre-mixed “alcoholic energy drinks” -- Tilt and Bud Extra. Anheuser-Busch also agreed not to produce any caffeinated alcohol beverages in the future.

“Alcoholic energy drinks taste and look like popular non-alcoholic energy drinks,” said Attorney General Tom Miller, “but they contain a potentially-dangerous mixture of alcohol and high amounts of caffeine. The caffeine gives drinkers a false belief that they can function without impairment. We are concerned about aggressive marketing campaigns for the drinks,” he said.

“We commend Anheuser-Busch for deciding to remove these potentially-dangerous beverages from the market, and we call on other manufactures to do the same,” Miller said.

“These 'alco-pops' are popular with young people, who often form the wrong belief that the caffeine in the drinks will counteract the intoxicating effects of the alcohol, and these beliefs are fueled by marketing campaigns that promise long nights of fun and enhanced abilities,” Miller said.

The marketing claims, coupled with published research about the dangers of the products, led the attorneys general to initiate an investigation into the content and marketing of Anheuser-Busch’s Tilt and Bud Extra products. The investigations were launched pursuant to state consumer protection and trade practice statutes and alleged, among other things, that Anheuser-Busch made express and implied false or misleading health-related statements about the energizing effects of Tilt and Bud Extra.

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More background and detail:

Arizona, Iowa, Maine, Maryland and New York issued investigative subpoenas to Anheuser-Busch, and California, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, New Mexico and Ohio assisted in the investigation.

While Anheuser-Busch denied claims made by the attorneys general, it cooperated with the investigation and promptly decided to reformulate Tilt and Bud Extra without caffeine or other stimulants, and agreed not to produce any other caffeinated alcohol beverages in the future. The state attorneys general praised Anheuser-Busch for being a responsible industry leader and for eliminating all caffeinated alcohol beverages from their product list.

The attorneys general emphasized that young people aren’t drinking just one or two of the alcoholic energy drinks – the products are intended to be consumed several times throughout a night of partying, and to be used as a mixer for other alcoholic beverages.

A recently-published study by Dr. Mary Claire O’Brien of Wake Forest University found that college students who mix alcohol and energy drinks engage in increased heavy episodic drinking and have twice as many episodes of weekly drunkenness. College students who reported consuming alcohol mixed with energy drinks also had significantly higher prevalence of alcohol-related consequences, like sexual assault and injury. Go to: O’Brien et al study on “Caffeinated Cocktails.”

The attorneys general said people must resist thinking the new alcoholic energy drinks are just like adding liquor to coffee. They contain substantially more caffeine than coffee or soda and are marketed to be consumed in combination with other alcoholic beverages. The marketing message is clear, the AGs said – if you drink these products you can party longer and drink more. That is an inappropriate message targeted at young audiences, the AGs said.

The AGs said they were pleased that Anheuser-Busch decided that the alcoholic energy drinks were inconsistent with the company’s reputation as a global industry leader in promoting responsibility. The AGs said the U.S. should be following the lead of European countries that have warned consumers against mixing alcohol and energy drinks, and that other manufacturers should follow Anheuser-Busch in discontinuing the products.

The AGs said they are continuing to investigate alcoholic energy drinks manufactured by other companies. They also will be working with state and federal officials to encourage further research and regulation of alcoholic energy drinks.

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