We’re taking a quick break from the Outdoor Drinking Guide to turn your attention to some news that surfaced across the inter-webs over the past few days and it’s really important we come together to figure this one out. At best, it’s an opportunity for humanity to join forces against one common enemy. And at worst, it’s the end of humanity as we know it. Ladies and Gentleman, our insatiable demand for convenience has led to powdered alcohol. Yes, that’s correct…I said powdered alcohol. Drunk Kool-Aid is almost a real thing…
I say almost because the product isn’t commercially available as of yet but the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) has indeed approved the product. As the Palcohol website suggests, this approval actually happened “some time ago” but the media-blitz came as the TTB publicized some of those approved labels only just the other day. Most of the response since has centered around the insanely inappropriate marketing copy on Palcohol’s website when the public became aware of their existence. You can read all about the suggestions for usage including a half-hearted attempt at discouraging “snorting” as a use case here, here, and here so I won’t go on ranting about that. In fact, since the back-lash Palcohol has smartly scrubbed the website of these types of comments and now has a fairly straightforward facts and figures site presumably as a placeholder. Even still, I find myself particularly disturbed by this story as a whole. And as you know, I normally don’t get too involved in this type of online-buzzworthy crap but I had to weigh in on this one.
First off, if you read the founder’s rationale for inventing the product, it seems fairly reasonable. This notion of an outdoorsy, adventure type looking to enjoy an adult beverage on-the-go without having to lug around bottles of booze, makes sense on the surface. But it feels like as people, as humans, we need to take a chill-pill on feeling the need to have everything we want, wherever we want it, no sacrifices necessary. It’s like that damn overused Spiderman quote, “with great power, comes great responsibility”, only in this case I guess it’s “with alcoholic powder, comes great responsibility”. Isn’t it obvious this product will cause way more harm than it will provide an opportunity for the athletic adventurer?
As much as I love drinking, from the social connectivity to the unique and skillful creation, there’s not a single part of me that doesn’t realize just how destructive alcohol can be when abused. And of course, this narrative holds true for so many of the things we’ve managed to commodotize through a need for convenience. It’s not that I’m saying we should all give up Netflix, hunt for our own food, and avoid using toilet paper. Let’s be clear, a drive towards reasonable convenience has led to a pretty damn good place in human existence. But will we know when to stop? It feels like the answer to that question is a pretty strong “no”.
Circling back to that whole concept of responsibility for a second, what worries me most as an avid drinker is just how similar it feels to pre-prohibition “innovation”. That may sound like a pretty dramatic comparison for modern day America, but when alcohol became drastically more accessible in the late 1800s, people got more drunk, the one’s who couldn’t handle it got out of control, and one day enough people were sufficiently fed up to push for banning all alcohol sales. Will Palcohol be the beginning of a new Prohibition? No, of course not. But it should act as a scary reminder of just how slippery of a slope the world of alcohol remains.