Other Voices

How Texans can prevent powdered alcohol from endangering kids

Tracy Glantz

Imagine opening up any teen’s purse or backpack to find hundreds of packets filled with a sugary powdered alcohol drink.

To create an instant underage drinking party, all he or she would have to do is pass out the packets to friends so they can be shaken into water bottles, mixed into other drinks (including ones that already contain alcohol) or sprinkled on food.

Powdered alcohol is exactly what it sounds like — it’s dehydrated alcohol in a small packet, making it easy and light to carry, like Tang or Kool-Aid. Concealable and expected to come in sweet flavors that would appeal to children, doctors, public health leaders and educators throughout the country have rallied to stop powdered alcohol in their communities before it makes it into the hands of any child.

Indeed, almost 40 states not interested in regulation at all have taken the necessary step of banning this dangerous product.

To date, there is not a single market where it is sold. You can’t buy it anywhere. However, that could change with Texas becoming the first market to be flooded with this dangerous product if sanctioned through regulations, unless the Texas Legislature passes House Bill 1610, which bans powdered alcohol.

As debated in 40 other states, it is clear that there is no safe way to regulate it because once it’s produced and sold, it would be nearly impossible to make sure it does not fall into children’s hands. Additionally, it could be easily over-consumed. Multiple packets could be combined into one drink or mixed into another alcoholic drink to increase the potency of the drinks, and it could be snorted to reach the bloodstream faster.

This is a public health disaster waiting to happen because it could push blood alcohol content quickly to dangerous levels, which can lead to car crashes if behind the wheel of a car; alcohol poisoning; and even death.

Despite the science, which shows that alcohol negatively impacts children’s growing brains, underage drinking remains an issue across Texas. According to the most recent Texas School Survey, 29% of middle and high school students in our state report drinking alcohol in the past month, and 52% say they have used alcohol at some point in their lifetime.

We also know that youth use of alcohol is linked to several serious consequences, such as traffic crashes and fatalities, DUI arrests, poor academic performance, increased dropout rates, unintended pregnancies and violent crime.

Given that there are already a number of existing issues that make it a challenge to protect the lives of our youth, why add another set of completely preventable issues to the list with powdered alcohol? Like alcoholic energy drinks and candy-flavored cigarettes, which were banned because they were too dangerous for teens, we need to stop this sugary powdered alcoholic drink from flooding Texas’ market before it’s too late.

After working in juvenile justice for more than 20 years, I have seen firsthand “opportunity youth” struggling with substance and alcohol abuse. Underage drinking is a major problem, and we cannot afford to have another product, such as powdered alcohol, on the market in any form.

As a parent, a Fort Worth ISD trustee and youth minister, I am deeply committed to my community and helping our youth become college- and career-ready. Every parent/guardian, grandparent and community leader should let their state legislators know today that they should support House Bill 1610 to ban powdered alcohol.

To learn more, visit pa.TexansStandingTall.org.

Jacinto A. Ramos, Jr. has served as the Fort Worth Independent School District Trustee for District 1 since 2013. He was born and raised in the North Side of Fort Worth where he resides today with his wife and three sons.