Senator Schumer Takes More Shots at Powdered Alcohol

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) has reinvigorated his fight against Palcohol®, the innovative powdered form of alcohol that is pending label approval by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). Senator Schumer has announced two new efforts to stop the sale and production of a product that Schumer calls “Kool-Aid for underage binge drinking.” On the heels of the FDA’s announcement that it will not investigate the health risks of Palcohol, Schumer has issued a press release announcing his intention to push through legislation banning the powdered substance and his plan to urge retailers not to sell the product once it is approved.

Palcohol

The controversial substance, manufactured by Lipsmark LLC, is freeze dried alcohol packaged in a powder form. On its website, Lipsmark recommends a variety of uses for the strange product, including applications in food, beverages, as an antiseptic in remote locations, and even as a fuel source. As fast as critics are combatting its use as unsafe and improper, the manufacturer is updating its site to allegedly limit misinformation and educate the public about a product that it claims poses no more risks than liquid alcohol.

Although early versions of the website reportedly included a widely criticized claim that the substance could be snorted, the website now responds to comments about snorting by saying that “it’s painful to snort due to the alcohol. Second, it’s impractical. It takes approximately 60 minutes to snort the equivalent of one shot of vodka. Why would anyone do that when they can do a shot of liquid vodka in two seconds?” The TTB already approved Lipsmark’s product, but later rescinded its label approval citing inconsistency in powder levels as the reason. New labels are now before the TTB awaiting approval.

Hurried Efforts

Senator Schumer is working fast to put in place a roadblock that the FDA was unwilling to deploy. In May, Senator Schumer sent a letter to the FDA asking it to step in and investigate Palchol. Despite the FDA’s refusal to take action, Senator Schumer is not content with those who say the product is safe. With his language focused on those under the drinking age, the senator is taking aim at the “obvious health concerns” he says the substance poses as well the “access, concealment, and abuse” of alcohol that the he claims the substance will promote among underage drinkers.

The Two-Part Plan

Senator Schumer is first looking to Long Island and national retailers to be what he calls “responsible citizens.” The senator is asking retailers to sign onto a pledge to boycott the sale of Palcohol. It is just one of “all possible avenues” that Senator Schumer says he will pursue to stand in the way of the powdered alcohol. Senator Schumer urges that the action is necessary to stave off alcohol related hospitalizations and deaths that he says will increase with the sale of Palcohol. Acknowledging that many retailers will not willingly refuse to ban an approved product, Senator Schumer is also turning to New York lawmakers to help him. The second tactic Senator Schumer is employing is to make powdered alcohol illegal by amending existing legislation, the Sober Truth on Preventing Underage Drinking Act (STOP Act) (P.L. 109-422).

Approval

Whether Senator Schumer will win his fight against the novel alcohol product remains to be seen. Yet, while Senator Schumer is steaming over the “disturbing concept” of alcohol in a powdered form, the TTB is busy making a decision about whether Lipsmark’s second attempt at labeling will pass muster. Senator Schumer’s urgency may be met by a sobering reality if, as Lipsmark predicts, the TTB approves its new labels and Palcohol hits shelves this fall.