Too convenient? Majority of adults support bans on powdered alcohol

June 15, 2015 Volume 24 Issue 1
  • 33% of adults in the US have heard of powdered alcohol.
  • Over 80% of adults believe powdered alcohol will increase the use of alcohol by underage youth.
  • 60% of adults in the US favor bans on the sale of powdered alcohol.

Powdered alcohol is a new product approved for sale in the United States in March 2015. A packet of powdered alcohol, when combined with 6 ounces of water, makes a single serving of an alcoholic drink.

Citing concerns about potential misuse by youth, some states have banned sales of powdered alcohol. Other states are currently considering similar legislation that would ban powdered alcohol. Meanwhile, proponents of powdered alcohol say that it is a convenient product that will be regulated like liquid alcohol, which limits sales to youth, and that a ban on powdered alcohol may increase demand among youth for the product.

In May 2015, we asked adults across the U.S. for their attitudes about potential laws regarding powdered alcohol. We provided arguments for and against powdered alcohol before asking questions.

Public Opinions About Powdered Alcohol

About one-third (33%) of adults in the U.S. had heard of powdered alcohol by the time of this Poll. Adults expressed several concerns about how powdered alcohol might affect youth under 21 years of age:

  • 90% of adults are concerned that powdered alcohol will be misused by people under 21
  • 85% are concerned that powdered alcohol will increase use of alcohol for people under 21
  • 81% are concerned that it will be easy for people under 21 to buy powdered alcohol.

The majority of adults support restrictions on the product, either as complete bans or related to online sales and advertising (Figure 1).

For each of these types of potential regulations, respondents who voiced concerns about potential impact on youth were more likely to favor a ban and/or restrictions on powdered alcohol.

Implications

Although powdered alcohol is a new product, the public is very aware of liquid alcohol and its related health risks for the U.S. population and for youth in particular. Alcohol abuse is identified by adults in the U.S. as one of the 10 biggest health problems for children’s health. High levels of public concern about misuse of powdered alcohol by youth in this Poll echo high levels of concern among adults about alcohol abuse by youth overall.

Not surprisingly, public concern about potential misuse and access to powdered alcohol among youth are strongly connected to the high levels of support for state laws and regulations regarding this new product. States have a variety of legislative and regulatory options when it comes to powdered alcohol, because regulations already exist for liquid alcohol.

The variety of options can be distilled down to one key decision for states: to treat powdered alcohol like liquid alcohol using existing approaches, or to set up new processes for regulating powdered alcohol as a distinct product. So far, most states that have enacted new legislation for powdered alcohol have opted to treat powdered alcohol as a separate product, and in doing so have chosen to ban it. However, most states have not yet taken action.

Findings from this National Poll indicate that the majority of U.S. adults (3 out of 5 adults) favor bans on powdered alcohol, consistent with their concerns about powdered alcohol being misused by youth. Even higher proportions of adults favor restrictions regarding online sales and social networking advertisements. Based on these results, state laws that restrict or outright ban powdered alcohol will likely receive strong public support.

Data Source

This report presents findings from a nationally representative household survey conducted exclusively by GfK Custom Research, LLC (GfK), for C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital via a method used in many published studies.  The survey was administered in May 2015 to a randomly selected, stratified group of adults age 18 (n =1,982) and older from GfK’s web-enabled KnowledgePanel® that closely resembles the U.S. population. The sample was subsequently weighted to reflect population figures from the Census Bureau. The survey completion rate was 60% among panel members contacted to participate. The margin of error is ± 2 to 4 percentage points.

C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health
Director: Matthew M. Davis, MD, MAPP
Associate Director: Sarah J. Clark, MPH
Manager & Editor: Dianne C. Singer, MPH
Data Analyst: Amilcar Matos-Moreno, MPH
Web Editor: Anna Daly Kauffman, BA
Research Associate: Katrease Hale, MPH

Findings from the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health do not represent the opinions of the investigators or the opinions of the University of Michigan. The University of Michigan reserves all rights over this material.

Questions were answered by adults age 18 and older.

Q1. Have you ever heard of powdered alcohol?

  • Yes
  • No

Powdered alcohol has been approved by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. When mixed with water, the powder becomes alcohol. Powdered alcohol will be made in a variety of alcohol types, drinks and flavors. It is expected to be available in stores within the next 6 months.

Some states have acted to allow sales of powdered alcohol, while others have banned it or are considering banning this product.

Those in favor of allowing sales of powdered alcohol say:

  • it will be regulated just like alcohol
  • it will be convenient and a product that some adults would enjoy
  • banning it will just create a demand for it

Those in favor of banning powdered alcohol say:

  • it will be easy for kids to obtain or hide
  • it will have many possibilities for both intentional and unintentional abuse
  • the flavors and packaging will appeal to kids

Q2. How concerned are you with the following?

  Strongly Support Support Do Not Support
Banning the sale of powdered alcohol completely in my state      
Prohibiting online sales of powdered alcohol      
Restricting the marketing of powdered alcohol on social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter      

Participants were also asked demographic questions on gender, race/ethnicity, annual household income, education and insurance status.

All information is the sole property of the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health. It can only be used if there is an acknowledgment that "The information came from, is copyright by and is owned by and belongs to the Regents of the University of Michigan and their C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health. It cannot be republished or used in any format without prior written permission from the University."

C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health
Director: Matthew M. Davis, MD, MAPP
Associate Director: Sarah J. Clark, MPH
Manager & Editor: Dianne C. Singer, MPH
Data Analyst: Amilcar Matos-Moreno, MPH
Web Editor: Anna Daly Kauffman, BA
Research Associate: Katrease Hale, MPH

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Infographic: Public Support for Regulation of Powdered Alcohol

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