Alcohol in a powdered form, called Palcohol, was approved for sale by the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) last week. That means you can have a shot of vodka or rum just by adding water to a pouch, or if you prefer, it also comes in three cocktail versions. Adding six ounces of soda or juice to the contents of a pouch makes a standard mixed drink. Some health experts and officials, however, are worried that the easily consumable, easily concealed pouches could lead to abuse by underage drinkers.
Last year, TTB greenlighted the product, but quickly backtracked, saying how the label approvals were given in error. Just last week, the bureau’s Tom Hogue told the AP that the issues were resolved and four varieties of Palcohol have been approved: R (Puerto Rican rum), V (vodka distilled four times), cosmopolitan, and powderita (tastes just like a margarita!). The lemon drop is expected to be approved shortly.
States can also regulate alcohol sales. In Massachusetts, for example, the import, sale, and manufacture of powdered alcohol is prohibited: Only "alcoholic beverages" are allowed. "Our first priority is to protect the health and safety of our residents, especially children," Treasurer Goldberg Deborah says in a statement. The product is also banned in South Carolina, Louisiana and Vermont, according to the Wall Street Journal, and Colorado and Rhode Island are taking similar steps. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York has introduced legislation to "make illegal the production and sale of this Kool-Aid for underage drinking."
"Youths are going to be very vulnerable to this," Scott Krakower of New York’s Zucker Hillside Hospital tells Live Science. The flavored powders may appeal to young people, he adds, and teens may end up ingesting higher amounts or even mix it with powdered drugs.
Other experts aren’t convinced that powdered alcohol is more of a concern than alcohol in its more familiar, liquid form. "Alcohol by itself definitely has its own share of traps and hazards," Brandon Korman of Miami Children's Hospital tells Live Science. "I don't see this yet as any more or less dangerous." Hogue adds: "Potential for abuse isn't grounds for us to deny a label."
Arizona-based Lipsmark hopes to start selling Palcohol this summer. According to its website, creator Mark Phillips originally intended Palcohol for hikers, campers, kayakers, and bicyclists who wanted to enjoy an adult beverage without having to carry around extra bottles and cans in addition to water.