A new fruit-flavored malt drink that crams 4.7 servings of alcohol into a 23.5-ounce can is under fire by attorneys general from Connecticut to California.
In a letter sent to the Pabst Brewing Company dated April 21, 16 state attorneys general – including Connecticut’s George Jepsen – urged the company to dial down the alcohol content in the drink called Blast by Colt 45, which the letter labeled a “binge-in-a-can” product. (Find the letter attached to this article as a PDF)
“It’s an alcohol delivery system,” said Buddy Sangalli, director of the Connecticut Poison Control Center. “It’s possible for some people – depending on body size, naiveté to alcohol – to get alcohol poisoning from one can.”
A 23.5-ounce can of Blast has more than four times the amount of pure alcohol contained in a 12-ounce can of beer, said Sangalli.
“It’s something that could potentially give [the center] a problem,” he said.
First-time drinkers who drink Blast are the most susceptible to alcohol poisoning because they do not know their drinking limits, Sangalli said. Furthermore, the sugar and fruit flavor in the beverage masks the pure alcohol presence and thus intoxication can sneak up on the individual, he said.
In the April 21 letter, attorneys general accused Pabst of targeting underage drinkers through marketing tactics, such as the product’s colorful design and hiring Snoop Dogg as its spokesperson. On Colt 45's Facebook page, the popular rapper is seen holding a can of Blast in one hand and a cane in the other.
One fan’s comment on the page reads, “Each can of Blast gives me that much more of a feeling of how Snoop does it.”
“This beverage is sold only to those eligible to purchase it,” said Sean Fitzgerald, a partner at Ketchum, Pabst’s public relations and marketing agency. “And Snoop Dogg has a great appeal to people 21 and over.”
Janice Heggie Margolis, executive director of MADD CT, does not see it that way.
“They will use whatever efforts to entice young people,” she said, referring to not Pabst specifically, but the alcohol industry as a whole. “MADD’s concern is [Blast] can encourage binge drinking, leading to drunk driving.”
Heggie Margolis said her organization’s national office has been working alongside the attorneys general who sent the letter in, and she would like to see the alcohol content either reduced or marked clearly on the can as 4.7 servings of alcohol.
Currently, the can is labeled only as having 12 percent alcohol by volume.
Fitzgerald did not say if Pabst’s response to the letter, which he said should be coming “in the very near future,” would heed the call for a servings-of-alcohol label on its 23.5-ounce can.
Whereas the attorneys general see Blast “fit to be consumed as a single serving,” Fitzgerald said it is not necessary for one individual to drink the whole can and rarely is that the case.
“There’s a number of different ways to consume this drink,” he said. Fitzgerald said Blast can be served over ice, mixed with a non-alcoholic beverage or shared with others, although none of these options are currently mentioned on the product.
“This is Pabst's answer to a preexisting market segment,” said Fitzgerald, referring to similar brands like Four Loko and Joose, which carry the same amount of alcohol content in the same size can.
The owner of a New Haven liquor store, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the negative news about Blast has only boosted sales.
“Stores are not complaining about bad publicity,” he said. “Any publicity is good publicity.”