Sweet alcoholic drinks (search) aggressively marketed to young people are anything but "cool and fashionable" and are luring troubling numbers of teens — especially girls — to engage in underage drinking (search), the American Medical Association said Thursday.
A nationwide AMA poll of 741 youngsters aged 12 to 18 found that 31 percent of girls and 19 percent of boys had consumed drinks some call "alco-pop" or "malternatives" in the past six months.
The products include fruit-flavored malt drinks with soda pop-like flavors and packaging that critics say disguises the alcohol content. The beverages, such as Mike's Hard Lemonade and Smirnoff Ice, are this generation's version of wine coolers.
Teen girls said they drank the sweetened beverages more than any other alcoholic drinks, while women 21 and over ranked them as their least-consumed alcoholic beverage, a second poll showed.
Jeff Becker, president of the Beer Institute, an industry trade group, said brewers "share the AMA's concern over illegal underage drinking regardless of the type of beverage being consumed."
"Flavored alcohol beverages are not new products in the marketplace, and marketing for these is directed at adults," Becker said.