On Wednesday, the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Trade Bureau approved four flavors of Palcohol, a powdered product that comes in convenient 1-oz packets. Mix the powder into 6 oz of water or the liquid of your choice, stir, and voilà: the perfect cocktail, with the alcohol content of a mixed drink. Palcohol comes in four varieties: V (vodka), R (rum), Cosmo, and Lemon Drop and could be in stores near you as soon as this summer.
Being the mom of two teens, I was immediately concerned, so I did what I do best: I investigated the company's website.
Here is what they had to say about the benefits of Palcohol (and how the average teen brain is likely to interpret these sales points):
"Palcohol is a boon to outdoors enthusiasts such as campers, hikers and others who wanted to enjoy adult beverages responsibly without having the undue burden of carrying heavy bottles of liquid. Similarly, adult travelers journeying to destinations far from home could conveniently and lawfully carry their favorite cocktail in powder format. Moderate quantities of flavored Palcohol products carried in resealable pouches are a fraction of the weight and bulk associated with traditional liquor packaging."
Teen interpretation: Finally, a convenient way to bring alcohol into concerts, ballgames, prom, and friends' houses! Sure, I'll take it camping too!
"Because powdered alcohol is so light, airlines can reduce the weight on an airplane by serving powdered vs. liquid alcohol and save millions on fuel costs. An ice cream manufacturer wants to add Palcohol to their ice cream to make an "adult" version."
Teen interpretation: You know what... you're right. Carrying bottles and cans around is a drag. This will be so much easier to stash in my backpack, purse, or car. And thanks, hadn't thought of it, but WHY NOT add it to ice cream?
The website goes on to debunk some "inaccurate statements."
"People will snort it and get drunk. Even the goofballs won't snort Palcohol due to the pain the alcohol would cause. It really burns. Imagine sniffing liquid vodka. 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?"
Teen interpretation: Wait, what? I can snort this too? That sounds cool and fun! Although you're right, maybe just mixing it with water and doing shots is faster...
"Powdered alcohol will make it easier to sneak into venues. A package of Palcohol is 4" x 6"... almost five times bigger than a 50ml bottle of liquid alcohol so Palcohol is much harder to conceal. Alcohol in any format is subject to abuse if someone is determined to do so. Nothing prevents a criminal bent on violating the law from pouring liquid alcohol from its original package into a water bottle, a lunchbox thermos, a hip flask, etc. for surreptitious consumption."
Teen interpretation: We're talking about 4 by 6 INCHES right? I mean, I don't love math but that seems pretty small to me... And hey, thanks for the tips on pouring alcohol into other containers. I'd heard of the water bottle one but the thermos idea is a great one!
"It will be easier to spike a drink. Not true. Palcohol does not dissolve instantly in liquid and would take over a minute of stirring to dissolve the equivalent of one shot of alcohol into a drink when one can spike a drink with liquid alcohol in about three seconds."
Teen interpretation: Again, not sure if you're getting your numbers right but you did say ONE MINUTE? I mean, it's not three seconds but still...
"Kids will get a hold of it easier. Not true. Palcohol is sold wherever liquid alcohol is sold and the same rules apply, you must be 21 years or older to buy it."
Teen interpretation: Great, my fake ID will still work!
We as parents try to draw the line with our kids when it comes to alcohol consumption. We use scare tactics and make threats. We say, "no drinking of any kind until you're 21... it's illegal... you'll get addicted or arrested, or worse, kill yourself driving!" We remind them we're not above purchasing a breathalyzer, grounding them forever or -- heaven forbid -- taking away their iPhone!
Yet our teens, feeling young and invincible (and having partied without us being the wiser), roll their eyes and tell us how everyone drinks and nobody gets arrested or killed. At some point, we may begin to rethink our strategy, knowing full well they're going to do it anyway.
So, many parents tell them tell them, "while we cannot condone underage drinking... if you're going to drink, do so responsibly. Let's agree on how much and where. Always watch your drink so no one spikes it. Never ever get in a car. Call anytime -- day or night -- and we'll come get you."
In the end, parents feel they can't win. We're already so conflicted and confused about how to discourage teen drinking.
Now Palcohol has found a way to make it even harder for us to navigate this no-win situation.
Seriously, Palcohol, are you just trying to torture parents of teens?
If so, it's working.