Alcoholic soft drinks – An Insidious way of creating a society of alcoholics

alcoholic-soft-drink1Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP) is deeply concerned that alcoholic soft drinks have once again flooded our markets under the guise of soft drinks.

While the law clearly states that alcoholic beverages are prohibited for those below the age of 18, these drinks are being sold to school children without restraint in supermarkets and 24 hour outlets.

The issue of alcoholic drinks sold as soft drinks is not new. In 1997 CAP highlighted the issue of Alcopops drinks which were soft drinks that contained up to 5% of alcohol. The same problem was later highlighted in 2003.

CAP’s survey shows that there are currently more than 15 types of alcoholic soft drinks available in the market. These alcoholic soft drinks which come in 275 ml bottles are sold from RM 4.00 to RM 10.00. The bottles with attractive and colourful juices come under the name of tropical fruit, ice lemon tea, orange juice, lemon original tanke, lemon and lime flavour, orange-lemon flavour and etc. The manufacturer uses very attractive colours and packaging to lure consumers especially children and teenagers into trying them and getting them hooked to these drinks. For example, some of these soft drinks also come in a very pretty, soothing pink colour, which can attract young girls to try them.

Even traces of alcohol in soft drinks make them into alcoholic drinks, what more with up to 4% to 20% alcohol content in these soft drinks. Widely-consumed beer contains 5% of alcohol. Some of these soft drinks had up to 4 times higher alcohol content than in beer.

The alarm bell was rung by a teacher in Penang after observing that some of his students consume these soft drinks almost everyday despite its high price. Noticing that these drinks were a sort of addiction to them, the teacher checked the label and was shocked to find out the drinks contain alcohol. Realising the seriousness of the problem he later brought the matter to CAP’s attention.

When CAP interviewed some of the students who drink these soft drinks, they were not aware that the beverage contains alcohol. Some of them expressed shock, not knowing that they were actually consuming alcoholic drinks all these while. Clearly the label with the information on alcohol content does not serve any purpose as it come in a very tiny print.

CAP believes that alcoholic soft drinks worsen the problem of violence and gangsterism among students. According to the Education Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, in 2005, 32 students were involved in gangsterism. In 2008 alone, the figure shot up to 81 known students.

CAP feels this insidious way of introducing alcohol to young Malaysians is unhealthy and destructive to our younger generations. Alcoholic beverages damage brain cells and dull their senses.  It has a negative impact on their academic performance.

The addition of alcohol into soft drinks is a dangerous and unethical tactic used by manufacturers to increase their sales. They are well aware that alcohol in their soft drinks tend to hook consumers into consuming their soft drinks. This may lead young consumers to alcohol addiction and the consumption of other alcoholic drinks with much higher alcohol contents. Clearly it is an insidious way of trapping young consumers into alcohol addiction to ensure continuous profits for the beverage companies.

In view of the danger of alcoholic drinks masquerading under the guise of soft drinks, CAP recommends the relevant authorities to take following actions:

a) These drinks should not be sold as soft drinks.

b) Any drinks with added alcohol should be labeled as alcoholic beverages and sold at liquor counters only.

c) Stern action should be taken on manufactures of soft drinks who label and sell their alcohol- added beverages as soft drinks.

d) As soft drinks are meant for all consumers, alcohol should not be allowed to be added in the manufacturing of soft drinks.