Tri-City Herald: Washington shelves are no place for powered alcohol

Powdered alcohol.

Now that is a substance to ponder. Approved by the federal government last month, the mix could be coming to a market near you as soon as this summer.

Just add water and shake or stir — whatever your preference — and you have yourself a drink.

While there may be a few useful purposes for the powdered substance, the potential for abuse and covert consumption by adults and use by minors far outweigh any benefits that we can see.

Our state’s lawmakers are working on a legislation that would ban the sale of powdered alcohol in Washington.

Several other states have rushed to do the same as the makers of Palcohol prepare to get five versions of the product on store shelves. The products include three pre-mixed “cocktails” that just require six ounces of water, and also powdered versions of vodka and rum packaged in the equivalent of one shot of booze that you can mix which whatever liquid you’d like.

While the founder of the company says as an outdoor enthusiast he was looking for a way to enjoy a lightweight drink at the end of a long hike, bike or kayak trip, powdered alcohol is ripe for abuse — even by those of legal drinking age.

Imagine a sporting event or concert where those over 21 already try to smuggle in their own beverages. Now instead of concealing bulky bags of alcohol or smuggling in flasks disguised as iPhones or flip-flops — yes, both are readily available as are many other creative devices — all someone would have to do is tuck the powdered substance in a spot in a bag or on the body not commonly checked by security at the entrance. Once inside, all they have to do is grab a soda or a water and mix away. Control by the venue would be lost, and people could become intoxicated without ever having purchased an adult beverage at the event.

Kids are another problem. Powdered alcohol — being easy to conceal — would be very attractive to those underage. Once they had their hands on it, they could do with it what they will, making double and triple strength cocktails quite easily. Alcohol poisoning could become an even bigger problem than it is with the liquid stuff.

For those among us who enjoy an adult beverage, the powdered stuff doesn’t sound all that palatable anyway. As state Rep. Jeff Holy, R-Cheney, said at a recent hearing, “This is not a crafted bourbon, or a scotch, or a tequila or something that’s special. Powdered alcohol is simply for the purpose of intoxication, period. You are not crafting the finer liquors.”

And while the creator’s intent may have been for something less benign than intoxication and more along the lines of a treat at the campfire, it just seems too risky for the limited audience that might use it for such. If you’re a hiker or kayaker, you’ve probably already figured out a workable way to have your liquid reward at the end of a day of exertion and accomplishment. The powdered stuff is not the solution.