FDA Wants 'Blow' to Rehab Image

Government argues energy drink glamorizes cocaine.

ByKate Barrett
February 26, 2009, 3:28 PM

Feb. 28, 2008 -- The maker of an energy drink mix called "Blow" is facing pressure to come clean.

Worried that Blow and similar products are glorifying drug use, the Food and Drug Administration sent a letter to the makers of the energy drink mix last month, threatening legal action if the company does not rehab its image.

Named after the well-known street name for cocaine, Blow comes under scrutiny for being packaged and marketed as an alternative to cocaine, as well as for not complying with federal drug laws.

The letter states that Blow itself is an unapproved drug, "intended to affect the structure or function of the body."

It also states that the energy drink mix does not have an FDA-approved application that legalizes its sale.

With a logo spelled out in white, grainy powder and its product sold in vials, the similarities between Blow and its illegal namesake are evident.

But Blow founder Logan Gola said in an interview on the cable network CN8 that because of the flooded energy drink market, his company just wanted to set itself apart with something "edgy, hip and cool."

Gola, who has also referred to his product as "tongue in cheek," said in the cable interview that it's "mimicking a lifestyle," and not promoting the real drug more than any given rock or rap song.

Gola, who mentioned on the program that he is a father, said he discourages the use of any caffeine products for children under the age of 18, and that if any child were to "use illegal drugs after seeing our product, then I've failed as a parent. Because it's my responsibility to teach my children about drugs."

Peter Nicholson, partner and chief creative officer at advertising agency, Deutsch New York, said Blow's marketing approach is not unusual.

"There has always been a desire for products that are legal to provide you with the experience of something illegal," Nicholson said. "And beyond the experience, it's the lifestyle associated with that. Being "bad". Society is enamored with the lifestyle of being "bad." We glorify it in movies, fashion, art , music etc. These type of products are just trying to capitalize on it."

"They're not selling anything illegal," he added. "They're not creating false advertising. They are using metaphor, albeit an illegal substance, to talk about the power of their drinks."

Other companies have recently faced backlash for similarly marketed products.

In December 2007, The Hershey Co. took heat for mint packets that closely resemble the small bags used to sell illegal drugs like crack, heroin and cocaine.

In May 2007, the energy drink Cocaine was pulled from the shelves across the country after the Food and Drug Administration issued a similar warning letter.

The FDA questioned the drink's labeling and Web site, which included the statements, "Speed in a Can," "Liquid Cocaine" and "Cocaine Instant Rush."

Redux, the drink's manufacturer, has since made labeling and marketing changes in an effort to comply with the FDA.

"FDA has become aware of the proliferation of various products that are being manufactured, marketed, or distributed as alternatives to illicit street drugs," the letter to Blow states.

"FDA is concerned that these products pose a potential threat to the public health."

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