A powdered form of alcohol called Palcohol is now approved for sale in the United States, but how safe is this product?
Some health experts say they are concerned that powdered alcohol could be abused by minors, or could be more easily more easily hidden and consumed in places where people are not allowed to have alcohol. But others argue that there is no reason the drug would be more hazardous than liquid alcohol.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau approved Palcohol, a powdered alcohol that people can drink by mixing the product with water, according to the company.
So far, the company has approval to sell four flavours: vodka, rum, cosmopolitan and Powderita (a margarita flavour), according to the Associated Press. When a packet of Palcohol is mixed with 177 millilitres of water, the resulting drink has the same alcohol content as a standard mixed drink, the company says.
Palcohol's maker expects to begin selling the product this summer.
However, a number of states are taking steps to ban the product, including Colorado, New York and Rhode Island. It is already banned in South Carolina, Louisiana and Vermont. And powdered alcohol cannot be sold in Massachusetts, because the state defines an alcoholic beverage as a liquid, according to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Alcohol Beverages Control Commission.
Lawmakers are expressing concern that Palcohol could be more easily transported than liquid alcohol, and thus sneaked into places where alcohol is not allowed. "There are very serious concerns about the illegal use of powdered alcohol by young people, possibly even bringing it into schools or other events and locations that prohibit alcohol consumption," New York State Senator Joseph Griffo, said in a statement last year. There are also concerns about the health risks of people snorting the powdered alcohol, Griffo said.
But a packet of Palcohol is much harder to conceal" than liquid alcohol, the company making Palcohol says on its website. A packet of the substance measures 10.2 centimetres by 15.2 cm, which is five times bigger than a 50-milliliter bottle of liquid alcohol. "Alcohol in any format is subject to abuse if someone is determined to do so," the website says.
In addition, people would likely not want to snort the powder because it would burn, and it would take about an hour to snort enough of the powder to be equivalent to one shot of vodka, the website says.