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Ban gives time for planning [Editorial]

Maryland lawmakers appear poised to ban, at least temporarily, the sale of a new powered alcohol, but as long as the product is available elsewhere its use will be a concern that alcohol abuse and addiction services will have to prepare for and address.

The House of Delegates on Tuesday voted 119-21 to approve a 13-month ban on "Palcohol." That action followed the Senate's 45-2 vote to ban the product for two years. In order to get some legislation passed, lawmakers in both chambers will have to agree on the term of the ban.

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Alaska, Delaware, Louisiana, South Carolina and Vermont already have banned powdered alcohol. Other states, including Minnesota, Ohio, New York and Colorado also considering bans.

Critics of the product say that it will increase underage drinking.

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The legislative action follows last month's announcement from state Comptroller Peter Franchot that the Maryland State Licensed Beverage Association, Maryland Beer Wholesalers Association and Licensed Beverage Distributors of Maryland have agreed to a voluntary ban on the product.

The product already has approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which said there was no legal basis to stop it. Last month, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau approved lebels for Palcohol. manufacturers of the product hope to have it available this summer.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D., N.Y., introduced a bill last year to block the sale of powered alcohol nationwide. The bill awaits action in a committee. Schumer called powered alcohol "the Kool-Aid of teen binge drinking" when he sent a letter to the FDA urging that agency to not approve the product.

The growing number of states implementing bans on the product may keep it off local store shelves, but as long as the product is approved and remains legal in other states, it will be widely available. That means that addiction and social services organizations will have to gear up programs to heighten awareness of the dangers posed by the product, as well as set up ways to monitor and track any rise in alcohol abuse, especially among under age drinkers.

State lawmakers are poised to provide some additional time to put the wheels in motion. Making the most of that time will be essential to staying ahead of what could be the next public health issue we face.

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