Dugan: The new prohibition? Powdered booze

BY JACK DUGAN | APRIL 10, 2015 5:00 AM

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On March 11, the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau approved powdered alcohol for sale nationwide. One week later, it was banned on a 48-2 vote by the Iowa Senate. I suppose there will be no taste of the contentious powder for Iowans, because the product has yet to hit the shelves.

Iowa is not alone in this prohibition. At this point, six states have banned the yet-to-be released product and Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has introduced federal legislation that would ban the manufacture and sale of the powdered substance nationwide.

So why such resistance to “Palcohol”? Opposition to the product contends that the flavors are attractive to children, and Schumer has heralded his bill as the newest weapon in the fight against underage drinking, going so far as to the call the powdered booze “Kool-Aid” for underage drinking. Of course, I always thought wine coolers or flavored drinks like a “Strawber-rita” were the “Kool-Aid” of underage drinking.

People are also concerned with how easily the packets could be sneaked into schools, making the endeavor of sneaking substance into public school too easy for the would be delinquent students looking to wet their whistle behind the bleachers in PE class. But the mobility of the substance is the entire reason it exists, with the inventor initially creating “Palcohol” for active endeavors such has hiking, where even a little bit of extra weight goes a lot to hold you back.

As for the boozey teenage students? Where there is a will, there is a way. When I was in high school, we had a concoction the students called “Faderade,” one part Gatorade, one part liquor of choice. Then, when administration wised up to that, kids would simply dump a bottle of vodka into a water bottle and sip on that.

Is alcohol abuse a problem for minors? Yes. Will banning powdered alcohol solve this problem? I believe not.

Then there’s possibly the most controversial aspect of “Palcohol.” The powdered form of the substance yields the adventurous partier the opportunity to snort the substance, and if this product does hit the shelves this summer, they probably will. In fact, it has already happened.

Back in May 2014, Vice writer River Donaghey penned an article “Powdered Alcohol Got Me Drunk in the Worst Way Possible” after a night experimenting with his even stronger homemade version of “Palcohols” product. After snorting lines of the stuff, he wrote, “If you like headaches and gummed-up sinuses and numb, dissociative drunks, you’re going to go apes--- for powdered booze.”

Doesn’t sound too appealing, but curiosity is an aspect of human nature, and people will be prone to test the boundaries of the substance, just as people continue to test their limits with Everclear (75.5 percent alcohol by volume), which is also banned in 14 states, Iowa included. Yet this liquid remains to be an essential ingredient to boozy concoctions nationwide.

Turning substance into contraband is not an effective way to regulate or control the product. If we haven’t learned our lesson from the 1920s Prohibition or even the ever failing war on drugs, banning powdered alcohol will only yield inconvenienced party goers and will not necessarily solve anything. But, perhaps depending on your stance on the matter, inconvenience for such people isn’t such a bad thing.

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