Powdered Alcohol: Portable Convenience or Public Health Concern?
Alcohol just got a whole lot more portable—and controversial. Palcohol, a powdered form of alcohol that comes in five flavors, including lemon drop and margarita, has been approved for sale by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. This approval means there are now no federal limitations on where the powdered alcohol can be sold.
Alcohol is regulated on the state level, though, and five states, including Alaska, Delaware, Louisiana, South Carolina and Vermont, have already banned alcohol in powdered form, with eight others considering a similar move; Pennsylvania issued a ruling that it couldn’t be sold by its control board.
Palcohol’s founder, Mark Phillips, says he invented the product for situations like hiking or camping, where it’s less convenient to carry bottles. Yet while the idea behind Palcohol is certainly practical, its use is potentially problematic. In fact, Sen. Charles Schumer of New York has already called for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ban it. The FDA, however, conducted a scientific review and found no concerns over Palcohol’s ingredients, nor any legal reason to support a ban.
That said, opponents of Palcohol find numerous problems with the product:
- The sweet flavors might be appealing to children
- The powder could be snorted
- The powder could be used to spike someone’s drink
- The powder is highly flammable
- It’s easier to sneak a packet of powder into some places than it is a bottle
- It’s possible to mix multiple pouches together or mix with liquid alcohol for a super-concentrated beverage that’s easier to binge drink
For its part, Palcohol’s website concedes that the powder could be snorted, but says any sort of buzz akin to what one would get from drinking would take a while to develop and be very painful in the process. Palcohol’s website also concedes that while the powder could be used to spike a drink, it is arguably much more practical and expedient to simply use liquid alcohol to do so.
Palcohol is still a few months away from being made available to the public, but these worries are valid. CASAColumbia shares these concerns about the impending availability of easy-to-consume and easy-to-conceal powdered alcohol, especially when it comes to teens. Any product that is particularly attractive to youth (with its sweet flavors) and encourages binge drinking (because it could be easily ingested in high concentrations) is in our eyes an unnecessary risk to public health.
Alexis Nager, MS
Alexis Nager is a Research Associate at CASAColumbia