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Teens reaching for souped-up cold ones?

A can of Sparks Plus is clearly marked 7.0% ALC/VOL. Is that enough to distinguish it from the wall of nonalcoholic energy drinks?

TEXT OF STORY

Scott Jagow: Every time I go to the convenience store, I'm astounded at the wall of energy drinks they have now. And all the stuff that's in them: caffeine, gingseng, taurine. And some of them have alcohol in them. Those drinks, with names like Torque and Liquid Charge, are under a lot of scrutiny now. Stacey Vanek-Smith has more.


Stacey Vanek-Smith: This week attorneys general in 29 states complained in a letter to regulators that alcoholic energy drinks are being marketed to teens.

Industry consultant Tom Pirko says part of the problem is that these drinks look a lot like their non-alcoholic counterparts, and the two often sit side-by-side on store shelves.

Tom Pirko: Unless there are very, very strong labeling standards, it's easy to confuse the products. Plus young consumers are going hunting for these products to get an extra hit.

There's even a MySpace page for Sparks Plus, an amped-up beer from Miller Brewing. On the page, Sparks Plus touts itself as a good alternative to "high-powered street drugs" if you need to stay up all night.

Tom Pirko doubts drink-makers will pay much attention to the attorneys general. But, he says, if the letter sparks a public outcry, companies will have to listen.

I'm Stacey Vanek-Smith for Marketplace.

About the author

Stacey Vanek Smith is a senior reporter for Marketplace, where she covers banking, consumer finance, housing and advertising.
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