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Attorneys General Request Miller, A-B Documents

Subpoenas Info Related to Alcoholic Energy Drinks

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CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- A group of state attorneys general is asking Miller Brewing Co. and Anheuser-Busch for internal documents related to their marketing of alcoholic energy drinks.
Several state attorneys general want an investigation into what they say are misleading marketing claims made by products such as Miller's Sparks and A-B's Bud Extra.
Several state attorneys general want an investigation into what they say are misleading marketing claims made by products such as Miller's Sparks and A-B's Bud Extra.

Attorneys general from Maine, Maryland, Iowa, Arizona and New York are among those who have asked the brewers for documents, according to A-B. A spokeswoman for the Maine attorney general's office declined to comment on the request.

The AGs first challenged the marketers over these products last August when they wrote a letter to the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau -- which approves product labels -- asking it to investigate misleading marketing claims made by products such as Miller's Sparks and A-B's Bud Extra.

Tax questions
In their letter, the attorneys general singled out Sparks and Bud Extra, as well as a third company, Charge Beverages, for having "taken advantage of the youth appeal by engaging in aggressive marketing campaigns ... [that] claim that such beverages increase a person's stamina or energy level. However, they do not mention the potentially severe, adverse consequences of mixing caffeine with alcohol."

The attorneys general also asked the bureau to explore whether the beverages ought to be taxed as distilled spirits and not malt-based beverages, which would have greatly increased their cost in most states. But the bureau found that the drinks were taxed appropriately.

A-B: Regulation should apply to all
In a statement, A-B said it was cooperating with the subpoenas, which were first reported by The Wall Street Journal's website. But A-B contends it is merely competing in a category established by caffeinated cocktails such as rum and Coke and Red Bull and vodka. "If the attorneys general truly believe that -- despite the state and federal regulatory approvals -- alcohol and caffeine should not be mixed, then they should use their powers to persuade these authorities to regulate or ban all such beverages, not just the lower-alcohol, prepackaged ones."

In a statement, a Miller spokesman also pledged to cooperate with the subpoenas, while noting that the beverages and their packaging are in compliance with regulations.

The marketing of caffeinated, alcoholic beverages is expected to be addressed in a forthcoming report from the Federal Trade Commission.
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