Attorney General on Underage Drinking

May 1, 2011

In this Sunday Edition, KSL’s Bruce Lindsay talks with Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff who is calling for consequences for the makers of alcoholic beverages aimed at children.

Also, a new report finds Utah has the 9th-highest suicide rate in the nation. A mother shares her story and a representative from Utah’s National Association of Mental Health offers insight.

Segment 1: Underage drinking

Attorney General Mark Shurtleff called on the Federal Trade Commission this past week to take stronger measures to stop underage drinking. That appeal followed his broadside a few days earlier against the Pabst Brewing Company for selling what he calls “binge in a can.”

Shurtleff feels Pabst’s “Blast” is mocking regulators.

“Just before they announced ‘Blast’ I met with a group of representatives from all the major brewers, the major distillers, prevention specialists, all coming together to say, ‘We want responsible drinking, we want to stop binge drinking, we don’t want youth access to alcohol.’ And then you have Pabst come out and right in the face of that, put on their can, their giant can, clearly ‘binge in a can’ and they say drink responsibly on the side,” he explains. “It’s almost as though they are laughing at us, us regulators. We don’t think it’s funny.”
“Kids do still listen to their parents but you have to be armed with facts. You can’t tell your kids ‘just say no,’ especially with alcohol.” -Mark Shurtleff

Despite the company’s claim to targeting the 21- to 29-year-old audience, Shurtleff says it is targeted to youth because of “Blast’s” design similar to the popular energy drinks.

“There are five servings, just short of five servings of alcohol in one can of this beer,” Shurtleff describes. “If you even sipped it over two hours, that still meets the requirements of binge drinking. One can alone will put you over the legal driving limit. And yet they put ‘drink responsibly’ on it. And then they roll out Snoop Dog, who, yea he’s popular with adults, but he is very popular with young people. The whole marketing scheme to me is clearly directed at our kids and it infuriates me.”

This drink is not sold in Utah because of its high alcohol content.

“I am concerned not just with Utah but all across the country,” says Shurtleff. “When somebody does something like this, I got other AG’s to join with me, to say it’s got to stop.”

Shurtleff wants Pabst to stop making “Blast.”

“Stop. Stop making it altogether. Period,” he says. “If they want to continue to serve, like some other companies are serving Alcopops, get it down to a regular size, don’t market it is a way that is attractive to kids.”

Shurtleff is the chair of the Youth Access to Drugs and Alcohol Committee for the National Association of Attorneys General. He wants to stress the importance of parents in keeping kids from drinking. They have formed Parents Empowered to help parents learn how to talk to their children about alcohol.

“Kids do still listen to their parents but you have to be armed with facts. You can’t tell your kids ‘just say no,’ especially with alcohol,” Shurtleff explains. “We arm parents with statistics at that they can sit down with their kids and show the negative impact on the developing brain and body of a youth. There’s incredible reason why kids should not touch this stuff.”