It's no secret that energy drinks are really popular among teens. But we're guessing a lot of parents don't know there's a whole new crop of energy drinks that don't just give you a boost, they can give you a buzz. Some brands now contain up to 8% alcohol, that's higher than a can of beer. Which begs the question, "Are alcoholic energy drinks held to the same standards as that of your favorite beer or wine?"
Marketers say the energy drink Red Bull gives you wings, while Monster unleashes the beast inside you and make you as fast as Dale Earnhardt Jr. And, now energy drinks can even get you buzzed. Brands like Sparks, Tilt and Budweiser Extra have caffeine and ginseng for energy, but they can also contain up to 8 percent alcohol. Some parents aren't even aware that some energy drinks already have alcohol added to them.
Officials say because the products are alcoholic, they must be treated the same as beer and wine. The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission regulates sales, taxation, importation, manufacturing, transporting and advertising of alcoholic beverages. Agents use several enforcement methods to help regulate alcohol sales including:
- Minor sting operations. They are undercover stings which identify retail establishments that sell to minors. In the past, sting operations found that approximately 35% of the establishments would sell alcoholic beverages to minors. In more recent years the rate has fallen as low as 20%.
- Inspections. TABC agents routinely inspect licensed premises and inspect or patrol other locations looking for violations of the Alcoholic Beverage Code and other state laws.
- Complaint Investigation. Agents use complaint investigations to track down violators, including places and people who sell or give alcoholic beverages to minors. If you wish to file a complaint, you may do so by contacting your local TABC office or e-mail email@example.com.
- Cops in Shops. A cooperative program between alcoholic beverage retailers, the TABC, DPS, U.S. Secret Service and sometimes local law enforcement.
- Operation Fake Out. A cooperative program between the alcoholic beverage retailer and TABC to counter the use of fake ID by underage drinkers.
- ID Checks. Since store clerks, wait staff and bartenders can be held criminally liable for selling alcohol to a minor, they often require a Texas Driver's License or Texas Identification Card issued by the Department of Public Safety, to prove that the person really is 21. If the patron is obviously over 21, the establishment may not require any ID at all.
- Texas Underage Drinking Hotline. A toll free complaint number, 1-888-THE-TABC, set-up to receive tips from the public.
Interview with TABC Agent, Sergeant Jeff Taylor:
1. Are energy drinks that contain alcohol held to the same standard as beer or wine?
"Yes" energy drinks" that contain alcohol are held to the same standards as other alcoholic beverages."
2. Give us some examples of some of those standards?
"These beverages are considered alcoholic beverages and it's illegal for anyone under 21 to possess or consume these alcoholic beverages. It's a "Class A" misdemeanor for anyone that sells, furnishes, or makes available alcoholic beverages to anyone under the age of 21."
3. Who is responsible for regulating alcoholic energy drinks?
"TABC as well as other law enforcement agencies are responsible for regulating the "alcoholic energy drinks"."
4. What responsibility do retailers and stores that sell alcoholic energy drinks have?
"The retailer's responsibility for these types of alcoholic beverages are the same as they would be for any other alcoholic beverages."
5. Does TABC do undercover stings to make sure stores that sell alcoholic energy drinks are complying with the law?
"Yes, TABC does conduct "minor sting" operations to ensure that retailers are complying with the law as it relates to the sale of alcoholic beverages."
6. What kind of results have you had--are East Texas retailers complying?
"The retailers in the East Texas area work very hard to comply with the law and operate as responsible retailers when selling alcoholic beverages."
7. What are the penalties for non-compliance or violations?
"The penalties for a person that sells, makes available or furnishes an alcohol based energy drink (alcoholic beverage) to a minor would be the same as other alcoholic beverages. The retailer faces administrative sanctions and the person that sold, serve, or delivered the alcoholic beverage to a minor faces criminal charges (Class A misdemeanor - 1 year in jail and up to a $4000.00 fine)."
8. What advise or warning would you give to parents when it comes to alcoholic energy drinks and teen consumption?
"My advice to parents would be to pay close attention to what their kids are consuming when it comes to these types of drinks, and read the labels on the products."
9. How can the general pulblic help in fighting underage drinking and businesses who sell alcohol to minors?
"The general public can report violations to our TABC Hotline at 1-888-THE TABC (888-843-8222)"