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Latest energy drink gets some bad buzz
Newhouse News Service
In the competitive market for "energy drinks," the aim is to advertise more caffeine, more buzz, more attitude.
Even more controversy.
The latest drink to bust from the pack promises the euphoria of drugs — but legally. And it's receiving buzz — especially from anti-drug advocates.
The Cocaine Energy Drink, created by a Las Vegas beverage maker, contains no narcotics but boasts on its Web site, "Instant Rush. No Crash!"
Drinkers are told they will experience the "highest energy content of ANY energy drink on the market today! 350 percent greater than The Bull!" — a reference to Red Bull energy drink. Drinkers will experience "possible feelings of euphoria," all, apparently, from sugar and caffeine.
Jamey Kirby, the drink's inventor, said the Cocaine Energy Drink contains 280 milligrams of caffeine and costs about $2 a can. An average cup of coffee contains about 80 milligrams of caffeine.
Drug experts are appalled, and so are nutritionists, who say young people use the stimulating drinks to help them party through the night.
"Kids get hopped up on drinks called Cocaine and Xtazy and then what happens when someone offers them a line of real cocaine or an Ecstasy pill?" said Joseph Califano, president of the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University.
The beverage Cocaine joins other energy drinks using provocative names and edgy advertising to make a splash in the crowded field of sugary, highly caffeinated drinks. With names such as Xtazy Energy, PimpJuice and Tantra Erotic Drink, most are aimed at young people and advertised heavily on the Internet.
"I can't believe they would name a drink after a street drug," said Andre Emont, director of pharmaceutical services at University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-University Hospital in Newark, N.J. "They are associating this with a drug people abuse."
"Kids already know what's out there," Kirby said. "Maybe this can help by making parents and kids not afraid to talk about drugs."
Kirby said he expected controversy, "but we were not prepared for this insane media blitz."
Industry experts seem less alarmed than drug experts and say marketers for energy drinks merely are trying to take on a "street attitude" and stand out from the crowd.
"They are going after the savvy, sophisticated 20-something male. They used to show extreme sports, like skateboarding. Now they are taking on a street attitude," said Sarah Theodore, editor of Beverage Industry magazine.
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company