Last week, New York Senator Charles Schumer called for the FDA to ban a new powdered alcohol product named Palcohol. Mark Philips developed the product in 2012 inspired by “a love of hiking but a distaste for carrying bottles of adult beverages uphill.” The product, set for release in stores this summer, has already drawn the attention of federal and state legislators. So far, six states have enacted legislation banning any form of powdered alcohol, and last month Schumer introduced a bill that could ban both the sale and manufacture of Palcohol nationwide. These sanctions, however, are unfair and unjustified. Palcohol, or any other powdered alcohol variant, ought to be regulated in the same manner as traditional alcohol.
The strong backlash against the product stems from unwarranted safety concerns, particularly the powder’s potential to facilitate dangerous drinking behaviors. Specifically, there are fears about potential snorting of the product. Philips originally claimed this was possible on Palcohol’s website, although he acknowledged that it was “probably not a good idea.” Philips has gone on to retract that claim and concluded, “It would take you an hour of pain to ingest the equivalent of one drink. It really burns.” Palcohol’s website has gone on to modify its stance by stating that snorting the product would be both “impractical and unpleasant,” though legislators still remain concerned that customers, specifically teenagers, will misuse
It is important to consider the product will be sold in single-use pouches capable of making a drink containing only 10 percent alcohol as the pouches are meant to be mixed with at least six ounces of liquid. Even if the product could be snorted effectively, it certainly would not be faster than drinking a standard 1.5 fluid ounce shot of liquor. Consumers who are looking to get drunk quickly already have a host of traditional, more efficient options.
More realistic concerns are that the powder would be too easily concealed, allowing consumers to bring the powder to places where consumption of alcohol was otherwise prohibited. But as with liquid alcohol, this is not a reason to ban it. Once again, Palcohol proves to be no more dangerous than regular alcohol — the single-serving pouch measures four by six inches. Anyone seeking to transport alcohol would find it far more efficient to carry a flask, some of which are designed to be concealed. These would both be smaller and allow for the transport of a greater number of servings.
Palcohol is just as dangerous as traditional alcohol — but not necessarily more so. Regulation of powdered alcohol products should match the current legislation for traditional alcohol. Any exclusive bans on powdered alcohol represent a deliberate bias in legislation.
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A version of this article appeared in the Wednesday, April 16 print edition. Email Adnan Zarif at [email protected]