December 18, 2008


 Oregon Partnership and other advocacy groups around the country are claiming victory following today’s decision by MillerCoors LLC to stop marketing caffeine-spiked alcoholic beverages.

The decision was in response to an investigation by state attorneys general about the detrimental health effects of the beverages and the aggressive marketing of the products targeting underage drinkers.

MillerCoors says it will reformulate its to-selling Sparks brand with a modified version that does not contain caffeine, taurine, guarana and ginseng, effective January 10, 2009. The company will also pay $550,000 for the cost of the investigation.

“We’re thrilled that MillerCoors finally got the message that they were dealing with a public health hazard,” said Pete Schulberg, Communications Director for Oregon Partnership. “High caffeine with high alcohol content and the fact that these products are marketing to young people makes for a dangerous combination.”

Last June, Anheuser-Busch, the largest beer maker in the U.S., agreed to stop manufacturing caffeinated versions of Bud Extra and Tilt.

The alcohol content of Miller Lite beer is 4.2 percent compared to an alcohol content of 8 percent in Sparks.

Two years ago, Oregon Partnership helped lead the successful charge against Spykes, an Anheuser-Busch energy drink sold in two-ounce, multi-colored bottles containing 12 percent alcohol.  Anheuser-Busch eventually pulled the product from the market.

Later, the California-based Marin Institute, an alcohol industry watchdog group, released the most comprehensive report yet on alcoholic energy drinks. 

“The available research suggests that alcoholic energy drinks create a dangerous mix,” the report states. “Yet the alcohol industry markets the beverages with messages that fail to alert users to the potential for misjudging one’s intoxication.  Indeed, these messages irresponsibly suggest the beverages will enhance alertness and energy.”

The companies market these products as ways to “party all night.” On the Tilt and Bud Extra websites, they say “Move from party to after-party,” “Get your second wind,” and “Who’s up for staying out all night.”

The Marin Institute, along with Oregon Partnership, recommend that the producers of alcoholic energy drinks containing alcohol take them off the market, that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services conducts research on the health and safety of energy drinks and that the Federal Trade Commission investigates energy drink producers’ marketing practices.

About Oregon Partnership:
Oregon Partnership is a statewide nonprofit that has worked to promote healthy kids and communities for well over a decade by raising awareness about drug and alcohol issues, providing prevention education in classrooms, and 24-hour crisis lines for people needing help. To learn more, visit

Great Britain To Crack Down on Teen Drinking and Driving?

December 16, 2008

European countries increasingly are taking action regarding underage drinking.  So for those who point to the European culture of teaching kids to drink in moderation at an early age, think again.  Alcoholism is a big problem in Europe….even more so than in the United States.

In Great Britain, the legal drinking age is 18….and that is in itself a problem…

This from the JoinTogether e-newsletter:

A recommendation to make it illegal for drivers under the age of 21 to have any alcohol in their system will be presented to government officials in England, Scotland and Wales, the BBC reported Nov. 26.

The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), an independent body that advises the government on drug-related issues in the U.K., said the recommendation sprung from concern about impairment among young people driving within existing drunk-driving limits. The legal blood-alcohol limit in the U.K. is .08 percent.

Government statistics show that 14 young drivers and their passengers die weekly in Britain. An ACMD working group has been reviewing current drunk-driving legislation.

“We feel that young people under the age of 21 should have a zero rate for alcohol if they are driving,” said Caroline Healy, a council member. “By their nature, they are inexperienced drivers and not able to tolerate alcohol, and the combination of the two is dangerous.”

The final report, due in Februay 2009, will also recommend that alcohol labels show calorie information, that a ban be imposed on the sale of strong lagers and beers, and that drinks be taxed based on their alcohol content.

Beer Tax Hike in Oregon Would Help Solve Budget Problems

December 3, 2008

The last time Oregon raised the state’s beer tax was 1977….31 years ago and counting.  But if there was ever a time when a ten-cent a beer tax increase was needed, it’s now.  And groups such as Oregon Partnership are bound to be vocal at the Legislature, trying to convince legislators that the millions of dollars generated by a beer tax increase would go directly toward mental health, prevention, treatment and enforcement programs that have been devastated by budget cuts and an ugly recession.

This is money that would not disappear into the general fund budget.  These are revenues that in the short run and long haul, SAVE taxpayers money for people who would otherwise end up in emergency rooms, jail, or both.

Make no mistake, such an increase would only come from the big guys…the Anheauser Busch and Coors of the world, not smaller local breweries.  Almost 90% of the beer consumed in Oregon comes from outside the state.

There are many advantages to this long overdue hike in the beer tax in Oregon, and hopefully, the new Legislature will realize what the public has, according to surveys – that Oregonians will pay pennies more for a beer, if they know the money is going to be well spent, do some good, help people in need, and not be a drain on local business.