The unhealthy alcohol-caffeine hybrid drink, Sparks, is about to lose its energy. After attorneys general from several states bullied MillerCoors, Sparks‘ manufacturer, into halting production, several questions remain.
Why only go after one part of the alcohol-caffeine drink market? California Attorney General Edmund Brown admitted that Sparks represents “90 percent of the market,” but the other 10 percent remains. Clearly, when Sparks is off the market, the other drinks in this genre will see spikes in sales.
Additionally, the attorneys general made no effort to stop bars from selling drinks such as Jägerbombs or Red Bull and vodka. These drinks follow the same basic recipe as Sparks, but there was not even a request for bars to limit sales of such drinks. Why the attorneys general chose to attack only one part of the large alcohol-caffeine market is a mystery. If these drinks really are dangerous, they should be banned in all forms – not just one brand of what can be found at a store.
The complaint against MillerCoors also criticized the company for marketing the drink to a young audience with colorful advertisements. Sparks advertising, in our experience, has been minimal. Beer ads are much more prevalent, especially during the professional football games that are watched by many under the age of 21. Even if some of the Sparks advertisements were seen by 19- and 20-year-olds, the clerks at liquor stores are still responsible for ensuring that adult beverages are purchased only by legal adults.
A more basic issue is that public policy should be coming from the legislature. Attorneys general are tasked with being the legal advisor to a government. If an attorney general feels that Sparks is dangerous, she or he should contact a local legislative representative and pursue policy in a typical manner – not simply act as they please with their immense power.
If Sparks is so dangerous that it must be removed from the market, then we should see a blanket ban on alcohol-caffeine hybrids in both liquor stores and bars. Any other way of tackling this problem is simply shooting at fish in a barrel.