Rapper promotes controversial new alcohol drink

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Rapper Snoop Dogg is promoting a new, fruit-flavored alcoholic drink that has triggered calls for its ban even before it goes on sale next month.

Rapper and actor Snoop Dog, who stars in the motion picture comedy "The Wash," reacts to a reporters question upon arriving at the Los Angeles premiere of the film November 12, 2001 at The Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood. REUTERS/Jim Ruymen

The drink, called Blast by Colt 45, is manufactured by Pabst Brewing Company and scheduled for release on April 5. A promotional video features Snoop Dogg posing with scantily clad young women at a photo shoot.

The drink, in 23.5- or seven-ounce containers, has a 12 percent alcohol content and comes in grape, raspberry watermelon, strawberry lemonade and blueberry pomegranate flavors.

Critics say it is a hazard for young people because it can be confused with soft drinks.

“You look at this product, and you think it’s a fruit drink,” said John Challis, senior vice president of Daytop Treatment Services, aimed at rehabilitating substance abusers. “They (breweries) are creating a demand, and then offering the supply.”

New York City Councilman Robert Jackson recently called for Blast to be banned in New York.

“Blast, along with similar drinks, is specifically targeted to younger people,” said Jackson’s aide, Martin Collins.

“In the short term, a drink like this masks and shrouds the effects of alcohol. That’s dangerous for our young people.”

In a statement, Jon Sayer, chief marketing officer of Pabst, said: “Blast is only meant to be consumed by those above legal drinking age and does not contain caffeine.”

Pabst encourages drinking responsibly, he added, saying Blast’s alcohol content is clearly marked on its packaging and suggesting consumers mix it with other beverages, pour it over ice or buy the smaller bottle.

A caffeinated alcoholic beverage, Four Loko, made headlines last October when nine college students were hospitalized for alcohol poisoning after drinking it and similar beverages.

A month later, the Food and Drug Administration warned that such caffeinated alcohol drinks were unsafe, and several states banned the sale of Four Loko.

Chicago-based Phusion Projects said it would no longer add caffeine to Four Loko and now sells a caffeine-free version.

Reporting by Bernd Debusmann Jr.; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Jerry Norton