Alcohol Detox Q&A: Maryland Governor Approves Alcopops Legislation

Alcohol Detox Q&A: Maryland Governor Approves Alcopops Legislation

After promising to consider vetoing it, Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley has approved a bill that will keep alcopops cheap and readily available to kids in his state. Alcopops are sweetened alcoholic beverages, often bubbly and fruit-flavored like soda, with a proven appeal to underage drinkers who are statistically more likely to wind up in alcohol detox than kids who don't start drinking underage. O'Malley caved to pressure from the influential alcohol industry - the same pressure that the state's lawmakers caved in to when passing the bill in the first place. News reports show the alcohol industry is a major contributor to campaign funding in the state. The bill was passed in spite of strong objections from youth advocates, law enforcement and public safety and health officials, and even the state attorney general.

The new bill defines alcopops as beer in Maryland allowing them to be taxed cheaply at 9 cents a gallon, instead of the $1.50 per gallon tax applied to distilled spirits, allowing alcopops to continue to be sold in convenience stores, gas stations and mini-marts where kids hang. Alcopop producers say their drinks are "brewed malt" - categorized in most states as beer. But alcopops are not beer by any definition. According to the California Youth and Alcopops Coalition, up to 90 percent of the alcohol contained in the soft-drink-like beverages is derived from distilled spirits.

A new California state law says a beverage with any detectable distilled alcohol is not a beer product and must be taxed as liquor. With names like Razzberry and Pomegranate Twist, alcopops are popular among teens and even middle schoolers - especially young girls. Several studies, including two from the American Medical Association as far back as 2004, prove that alcopops attract teenagers and especially underage girls - the largest, fastest-growing segment of drinkers with binge-drinking and drink-and-drug problems that lead to injury and death. Kids consuming alcopops don't understand how quickly drinking sweetened alcohol can lead to drunkenness and eventual dependence and alcohol detox.

The AMA has even published posters aimed at educating youth about the problem. Studies in Europe as well as in the U.S. also prove that when alcohol beverage prices are lowered, alcohol abuse and alcohol detox and rehab statistics get worse. And where prices have been raised, alcohol detox stats and alcohol-related problems in general have all improved. These are the kinds of studies that have led at least three states to pass legislation ruling alcopops as liquor, not beer, effectively raising the price of the drinks high enough to help discourage underage drinkers. This new Maryland law only adds to the dreadful record in that state for controlling drug and alcohol abuse, and will only add thousands more young people to the tens of thousands already needing a drug and/or alcohol detox program to get their lives back.

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