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US states urge Pabst to dilute controversial drink

* State officials say the drink is a “binge in a can”

* Critics say it appeals to those under legal drinking age

NEW YORK, April 22 (Reuters) - Sixteen U.S. state attorneys general are urging the Pabst Brewing Company to reduce the alcohol content of a controversial fruit-flavored drink that is getting promotion from rapper Snoop Dogg.

The drink, called Blast by Colt 45, has a 12 percent alcohol content, more than twice that of most beers and comparable to wine. Its flavors include grape, raspberry watermelon, strawberry lemonade and blueberry pomegranate.

Pabst issued a statement denying that Blast is being marketed to underage drinkers, saying the beverage is “meant to be consumed by those above the legal drinking age.”

“We believe the manufacture and marketing of this flavored ‘binge in a can’ poses a grave public safety threat and is irresponsible,” the state attorneys general said in Thursday’s letter to Pabst Chairman and CEO Charles Dean Metropoulos.

“We are also concerned that the target market for all size containers of Blast, which your company describes as ages 21-29, will also include persons under the legal drinking age, in violation of state law.”

The letter was sent by Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler and was also signed by attorneys general from California, Illinois, Ohio, Arizona, Massachusetts, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Washington, Utah, Idaho and Connecticut.

The attorney general of the U.S. territory of Guam and the city attorney of San Francisco also signed the letter.

The letter asked Illinois-based Pabst to take “immediate steps to significantly reduce the number of servings of alcohol presented to consumers in a single-serving container so as to eliminate the serious public safety risks.”

Gansler cited Blast spokesman Snoop Dogg’s popularity with people under the legal drinking age, and said the drink’s promotional videos featuring the rapper can be viewed by anyone on websites including YouTube.

“As with all Pabst products, our marketing efforts ... are focused on conveying the message of drinking responsibly,” Pabst said in its statement.

The letter is posted on the Internethere

Reporting by Bernd Debusmann Jr., editing by Peter Bohan and Will Dunham