Powdered Alcohol — Coming To A Store Near You

It's official: The freeze-dried alcohol product known as Palcohol was just given the green light by the Alcohol and Tobacco Trade and Tax Bureau (TTB). The turn-around from approval to availability will be quick — the company’s blog says the product will “hopefully be available this summer.” The product could be mixed with water to make an alcoholic beverage. Now, when I first read the news, I was a little alarmed. I mean, does powdered alcohol seem like a bad idea to anyone else?
I am not alone in questioning the wisdom of approving such a product. Palcohol, which comes in different flavors, has been met with questions about accessibility and the potential for abuse: Will people snort it? Will it be easier to sneak it into venues? Will it be easier to spike a drink? Will the flavors attract children? But, TTB spokesperson Tom Hogue defended the bureau's approval of the product, saying, “Potential grounds for abuse isn’t grounds for us to deny a label.” Palcohol’s company blog also repudiates criticism of the product, saying, “Since the product isn’t even on the market yet, there is not one shred of evidence that it will be used or abused any differently than liquid alcohol.” The brand also says that criticisms have no basis and are alarmist: The company says snorting one shot’s worth of vodka would take about an hour, it takes at least one minute of stirring for the product to dissolve in a drink, and it would only be sold in liquor stores, similar to other alcoholic products. 

Even though Palcohol has been approved by a federal agency, states still have the right to regulate powdered alcohol within their own borders. In fact, several states have already moved to ban the product. Colorado, for one, has "advanced legislation to temporarily halt its sale," according to CBS News. Surprisingly, though, some of the strongest opposition is coming from the liquor industry, because, Palcohol's company blog claims, “they want to save their market share.”

That seemed strange to me, but when I learned the powder has many applications beyond consumers and partying — the brand noted uses for the military, medical, and hospitality industries — it started to make more sense. For example, powdered alcohol would be much easier and lighter to transport to remote locations, like a war zone hospital or refugee camp. Additionally, the company writes, “because powdered alcohol is so light, airlines can reduce the weight on an airplane by serving powdered vs. liquid alcohol and save millions on fuel costs." Lighter cargo would mean reduced shipping costs, which would be attractive to many resorts that rely on imported alcohol for their customers or for use as an antiseptic.

I can definitely understand the alarm around this product, but, at the same time, when I read about all of the potential applications, I was intrigued. What do you think? Will powdered alcohol be the ruin of humanity, or are claims exaggerated? Would you drink a cocktail made from powdered alcohol? I guess we'll just have to wait until summer to see.

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