By Pam Blume
Christian Action League
May 1, 2015
The recent commercial spots from Talk It Out NC on underage drinking are jarring and depict a parent’s worst nightmare; losing a child to death or dealing with severe injury. So while North Carolina is trying to come up with ways to keep our kids from drinking, someone thought it a good idea to come up with powdered alcohol!
The product is called Palcohol and was approved by federal regulators last year. The U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau approved labels for the product allowing it to be sold in the U.S. unless otherwise prohibited. It would be available in a pouch that looks much like a child’s juice container and becomes an alcoholic beverage with the addition of water or a mixer. The makers of the product intend to market it to backpackers and others who want a more portable form of liquor.
Combined with low cost and ease of concealment, the immediate concern raised by health and safety advocates was its use by underage drinkers. With those concerns and others in mind, the NC House voted 114-4 Monday evening to ban the sale of powdered alcohol.
The House Alcoholic Beverage Control Committee had previously voted unanimously to approve HB 290–Prohibit Powdered Alcohol. The bill also had to get through the House Health Committee.
In March, NC Alcoholic Beverage Control Chairman, Jim Gardner, had written to lawmakers encouraging them to support the bill. He pointed out that the NC ABC regulates alcoholic beverages, but “…powdered alcohol is not defined as a beverage in our statutes, and so this product falls outside the regulatory authority of the NC ABC Commission. The proposed legislation is worded to address this issue by preventing this problem product from legally entering our state.”
The NC Spirits Association had also said that the product flies in the face of current efforts to curb underage drinking.
Bill sponsor Rep. Shelly Willingham (D-Edgecombe) said, “It is a product that is dangerous, a product that we don’t want to have in our state. You can put it in your food, you can put it in your coffee–anything you can do with Kool-Aid you can do with this.”
But Rep. Larry Yarborough (R-Person) commented in the House Health Committee meeting that “I think it’s kind of silly to ban something we don’t know anything about. It’s just another form of alcohol, it seems to me.”
When asked why the state should ban the substance rather than regulate it, Willingham answered, “It’s easy to have, easy to use, and hard to identify.”
So widespread is the concern over the product that several dozen states have taken steps to ban the substance and U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer, D-NY, has proposed legislation in the U.S. Congress to ban it nationwide, calling it “Kool-Aid for underage drinking.”
According to the NC bill summary, it “defines powdered alcohol and prohibits the manufacture, sale, transport, import, delivery, furnishing, purchase, consumption or possession of powdered alcohol.” The bill will now go the the NC Senate.
The Christian Action League (CAL) has consistently supported and lobbied for the ban on powdered alcohol. In a hearing for public input, CAL executive director Rev. Mark Creech stated that it would …”only add to the ‘parade of horribles’ fostered by liquid alcohol.” He added, “This doesn’t need to be regulated, it needs to be prohibited.”