Politics & Government

Time to ban ‘Palcohol’ in Texas?

Palcohol is powdered alcohol
Palcohol is powdered alcohol cbsnews.com

Freeze-dried versions of Cosmopolitans, mojitos and rum could soon be all the rage if federal officials give it the green light.

But it’s a trend that state Rep. Charlie Geren wants to stop before it starts in Texas.

“It’s a new product,” said Geren, R-Fort Worth, who has filed a bill to make Palcohol, or powdered alcohol, illegal in Texas. “I think it can be a very big problem.

“We are hearing about people taking powdered alcohol and putting it in Red Bull and putting in more alcohol,” he said. “Or putting it in straight alcohol or snorting it.”

Already, nearly a half-dozen states have banned the use of the product that, when added to water or another beverage, produces vodka, rum, Lemon Drops, Mojitos, Powderitas and Cosmopolitans.

On its website, Palchol officials, who hope to start selling their product this spring, pitch their product as a convenient and lightweight way to make adult beverages more available to everyone from campers to travelers.

Geren said it’s a bad idea and he doesn’t want this to become an issue in Texas, which is why he filed House Bill 1018 to ban the use of the product.

“I think the potential abuse is big,” he said. “We need to do something about it before it happens.”

Last year, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau approved Palcohol, but the agency later backtracked, saying the approval was given wrongly, and revoked it.

Palcohol’s parent company, Lipsmark, at the time told the media there was “a discrepancy on our fill level, how much powder is in the bag.” Officials said they would resubmit labels for approval.

Creators of the product say it is “for the legitimate and responsible enjoyment by lawful consumers.”

Each packet weighs about an ounce and, when mixed with five ounces of liquid, the alcohol content is “equal to a standard mixed drink.” Each flavor varies, but ingredients in each package includes alcohol and, in some cocktail versions, Sucralose as a sweetener, along with natural flavorings. They note that Palcohol is gluten free and has about 80 calories per packet, according to the website.

The creators say it has many uses, such as giving campers and hikers a way of carrying adult beverages without all the weight and bulk.

They say travelers could easily and legally carry their favorite drink in a powdered format, and airlines could carry the powdered product and save on fuel costs by reducing the load on planes.

According to their website, an ice cream manufacturer wants to use the product to make an “adult” version of ice cream; a hotel in Hawaii is interested in the product to save shipping costs from the mainland; medical personnel are asking about using the product as an antiseptic; Swedish and Canadian people have asked about using it in windshield wiper fluid; and there has been some interest in using Palcohol for fuel.

Negative aspects

Palcohol creators say media coverage has focused on negative aspects of the product, which they want to clarify.

They say people won’t snort the product because that would be painful. They say it won’t be easier to spike drinks because it takes more than a minute of stirring to dissolve the product in liquid.

And they say children won’t easily be able to access the powder, because it will be sold where liquid alcohol is sold — and the same rules, such as requiring buyers to be 21 or older — remain in place.

“We are disheartened that no state, which has already introduced legislation to ban powdered alcohol, asked [founder] Mark Phillips to testify before a committee to explain the product to the legislators,” according to a statement on the Palcohol website. “Since no one has firsthand knowledge of powdered alcohol, you would think the responsible thing to do is find out about the product from the source.

“Instead, the legislators got caught up in the hyperbole and misinformation that is being thrown about by people who don't know what they’re talking about.”

What’s the need?

Alaska, Delaware, Louisiana, South Carolina and Vermont have already outlawed the use of powdered alcohol, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Even more states, including Colorado and Kansas, are now considering bans.

Geren said he learned of the issue during a Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission briefing last year.

A TABC report last year encouraged a ban on powdered alcohol in Texas, noting that other states had passed similar bans.

The report by TABC Executive Director Sherry Cook notes that Texas’ Alcoholic Beverage Code does not address powdered alcohol.

Geren said he wants to get out in front of the issue before it becomes a problem in Texas.

“It seems pretty silly to me,” Geren said. “I don’t know why we need powdered alcohol. We have plenty of alcohol as it is.”

Anna M. Tinsley, 817-390-7610

Twitter: @annatinsley