'Sexy' drink stirs charity concern

Emma Maier

Two charities are continuing their campaign against a new 'alcopop' that claims to boost sexual prowess, despite assurances from the drink's manufacturer that it will not be available to under 18s.

The Salvation Army and Alcohol Focus Scotland reported Roxxoff to the Portman Group, the industry's self-regulatory body, because pre-publicity material for the drink broke rules banning manufacturers from linking alcohol and sexual performance.

They were also concerned that the drink may be targeted at underage drinkers and could promote irresponsible drinking and unsafe sex.

The promotional web site for the drink, which was dubbed a 'viagrapop' by the Daily Mail, originally boasted that it would create a "race of randy superbeings". The site also explained that the drink is made from a mixture of vodka and herbs known to increase libido.

The Portman Group upheld complaints made by the charities and the manufacturer of rival brand Smirnoff Ice, and blacklisted the product before it was even released. Pubs and clubs, however, are not obliged to observe the group's rulings.

Diane Thomson, core services manager at Alcohol Focus Scotland, said: "Promotions of this sort send out a completely irresponsible message to the young drinkers and clubbers it is aimed at.

"It seems that some distributors are prepared to be as disingenuous as possible in their marketing, leaving any scruples at the door."

However, Roxxoff's manufacturer has defended its product and claims that it is more responsible than other alcopop producers.

Chris Williams, marketing manager at Yours Alternatively, which makes Roxxoff, said: "We have been called the first responsible alcopop because we will only sell our drink in pubs and clubs where drinkers are required to prove that they are over 18."

Williams also claimed that the drink will not lead to unsafe sex. "Those who drink Roxxoff feel better and are more alert," he said. "This might even help with drink-related sex incidents."

However, the Salvation Army attacked these claims. "Alcopops are not a good idea anyway, so it is immaterial that Roxxoff will not be sold in supermarkets," said Dean Pallant, head of external relations at the Salvation Army. "Whichever way you look at it, alcohol is a proved depressant, so it is unbelievable to claim that it will make drinkers more alert."

Roxxoff will be released in 20 countries over the next week.

ALCOHOL STRATEGY

The Government's national alcohol strategy, due to be unveiled later this year, should include a threefold increase in spending on alcohol treatment, according to Alcohol Concern.

The charity says 100,000 people are referred to alcohol treatment agencies each year when 300,000 problem drinkers are in need of help.

Although three times as many people die from alcohol-related illnesses as drugs, the Government spends £95 million on alcohol services compared with £1.5 billion on its drugs strategy.

Richard Phillips, director of policy and services at Alcohol Concern, said: "If you're a mega-rich pop star, you can simply book yourself into an expensive private clinic. But our findings show there are hundreds of thousands of others who simply have nowhere to turn for help."

Alcohol Concern is collaborating with Turning Point and the London Drug and Alcohol Network on a £300,000 research project, funded by Comic Relief, designed to influence the forthcoming alcohol strategy.

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