Powdered alcohol ban sent to full House

The same month federal regulators approved the sale of powdered alcohol, Texas has joined a growing number of states moving quickly to outlaw the new product that health officials say could make it easier for minors to conceal and consume alcohol. 

The House Licensing and Administrative Procedures Committee approved a bill Monday by state Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, that bans the sale and possession of powdered alcohol, or “Palcohol,” in Texas. The powder is sold in a small pouch — in an amount equivalent to a shot — for consumers to mix into a glass of water, soda, juice or other beverage to create an instant mixed drink. 

At a committee meeting last week, Geren said allowing powdered alcohol in the state could lead to alcohol abuse by minors. 

“Some have gone so far as to suggest the public health ramifications of powdered alcohol could make the darkest days of the Four Loko era look tame,” Geren said, referring to the alcoholic energy drink that changed its formula in 2010 after widespread criticism that it posed a health risk for young drinkers.  

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Powdered alcohol, available in vodka, rum, cosmopolitan, margarita and lemon drop flavors, was approved earlier this month by the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.  

Creator Mark Phillips invented Palcohol so he could have a drink when he went “hiking, biking, camping and kayaking” without carrying a heavy bottle of booze around, according to the product’s website. 

But critics say Palcohol’s size and portability is more problem than feature. 

“With packets small enough to fit into a child’s pocket, it will be harder for schools and parents to identify and confiscate this substance from our youth,” said Grace Barnett, a spokeswoman for Texans Standing Tall, a nonprofit that advocates against youth drug and alcohol use, at the hearing last week. 

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“They could spike the punch, they could snort it, they could just put it in their mouth,” Geren said. “I just don’t think it’s something that we need to have on the shelves in our liquor stores.” 

Geren’s House Bill 1018 would classify powdered alcohol as an illicit beverage, illegal to sell or possess in Texas. The legislation is one of 47 bills filed across 28 states in this year to somehow regulate powdered alcohol, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Alaska, Louisiana, South Carolina, Vermont and Virginia already prohibit the sale of powdered alcohol, and Delaware and Michigan have extended liquid alcohol restrictions to powdered alcohol. In Maryland, wholesalers and distributors agreed to a voluntary ban on the product. 

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at http://www.texastribune.org/2015/03/30/powdered-alcohol-ban-sent-full-house/