Is 'Blast' malt liquor being marketed to kids?

‘Blast’ by Colt 45 received a less than enthusiastic welcome to the market place last April when several politicians expressed concern that the drink was essentially a “binge-in-a-can”.

Fair media advocate Paul Porter of Industry Ears, says that after the initial media blitz, elected officials have not pursued the issue and that Colt 45 is continuing to market the product to young African-Americans. “My shock is that there has not been adequate follow up,” stated Porter.

On April 21, 2011 Douglas F. Gansler, Maryland’s Attorney General wrote to Pabst Brewing Company, the maker of Blast by Colt 45, on behalf of himself and 17 other attorneys general. Porter provided theGrio with a letter from Lavely & Singer, a law office that represents Pabst. The letter from Pabst’s Attorney is dated May 4, 2011; it responds to issues that were raised in Gansler’s correspondence. Porter says that it was leaked to him about a week ago. When asked to comment, David Paulson, a representative for Maryland’s Attorney General stated, the office “continues to work on this issue to protect the victims of underage and binge drinking.”

Porter expressed disappointment that Gansler has not continued to pursue the issue, particularly in light of the content of Pabst’s letter. “I’m upset that they are trying to hit the racist button as their defense. I just found that hilarious,” said Porter. Pabst’s letter questions whether “subtle racism” has enhanced the elected officials focus on Blast.

The letter states “Blast is being unfairly targeted because the product is endorsed by a spokesman who is an ethnic minority.” Blast’s primary spokesperson is Snoop Dogg. The rapper has been featured in advertisements for Blast that range from social media to traditional advertising on radio and in magazines.

Pabst maintains that it is committed to the responsible consumption of alcohol by those over the legal drinking age. Porter says that Pabst racism charge is a feeble attempt to confuse the serious issues around a dangerous product, “As if they have been championing African-American causes, when all they are selling is liquor.”

Blast has an alcohol content of 12 percent, which is higher than the average beer at about 6 percent, but less than most wine. Advocates and elected officials have stated that Blast is dangerous because of its high alcohol content combined with its large serving size. In a video meant for distributors, Pabst claims that the target demographics for Blast is urban and suburban adults between 21 and 29 who are interested in hip-hop music. Porter does not think that the current campaign intends to generate mass appeal.

“Every Snoop ad is delivered to the hood, it’s not meant to cross over.” In fact, Blast appears to be hard to find in both urban and suburban markets. A zip code search of the New York and Detroit metropolitan areas, on the “Where to buy” link on Blasts website produced sparse results. Many stores were listed; few said that they had the product in stock when contacted.

Tim Roumayah of Chateau De Vin, said that he had Blast in stock. “It’s not very popular in comparison to Four Loko and Jeremiah Weed, ” said Roumayah. He felt that the product appealed to young people because of the high alcohol content.

Speaking from his shop in a suburb about 30 minutes north of Detroit, Roumayah said he did not know that the product’s spokesperson was Snoop Dogg. Or, that there was controversy surrounding the tone of the marketing campaign.

New York City Council Member, Robert Jackson, has also taken exception to Blasts marketing strategy. “If you look at the advertising it’s geared toward urban youth; the majority of which are children of color, that’s clear.” Jackson wrote his own letter to Snoop Dogg asking him to step down as spokesperson for the brand.

Pabst has insisted that Blast’s packaging and advertisements meet state and local standards and that it is not in the company’s interests to encourage underage or binge drinking. Jackson says that Blasts fruit inspired flavors and colorful packaging tell a different story. “They may meet regulations, that doesn’t mean they are not gearing it toward teens and young adults.”

Since writing to Snoop Dogg in March, Jackson has introduced a resolution urging both houses of the NY state legislature to pass pending legislation, which would classify flavored malt beverages, such as Blast, as liquor for the purposes of distribution. This change in definition would restrict the sale of so- called ‘alcopops’ to liquor stores in New York State. According to Jackson’s resolution, this restriction would decrease underage access to products like Blast and its competitors.

Pabst Brewing Company did not respond to a request for comment regarding this story.

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