This controversy isn’t likely to blow over.
Yukoners have now joined a national campaign to have Blow, a controversial new powdered energy drink, banned from the Canadian market.
Named after street slang for cocaine, Blow is a white,z powdered concoction that is supposed to be mixed with water to create an energy drink.
Currently, it’s only available in the US. But the manufacturer has immediate plans to expand into the Canadian market.
“Since we launched, we’ve received a tremendous amount of customer requests from Canada … it just became too loud for us to ignore,” said Logan Gola, the Las Vegas-based creator of Blow, in an interview with the News.
Gola has already started to tinker with the chemical formula to make the stuff acceptable in Canada.
A petition is circulating in the Yukon and NWT calling for Health Canada to ban the product.
“If we can’t get it banned in Canada, we’ll at least try to get it banned in the Yukon,” said Collin Moonen, the petition’s author and an advocate against drug and alcohol abuse.
“One of the main reasons it bothers me is that it’s targeted at youth; the biggest range of energy drink customers are between the ages of 12 and 20,” said Moonen, himself a former heroin addict.
In the media, Blow has often been portrayed as coming packaged with a mirror and a fake credit card. Customers prepare the drink mixture by “cutting” the powder into “lines”, mimicking the actions of a cocaine user.
“The last thing we need right now is for kids to be walking around with the tools for cocaine,” said Moonen.
However, the mirror and fake credit card are only packaged with the “VIP” kit, which is available solely to high-profile celebrities and the press, said Gola.
Consumers can buy a fake “VIP” credit card off the company’s website, but it’s “ridiculous” to assume that people will buy it to do something illegal, he said.
Gola also defended claims that his product was targetting the youth market.
“It’s an adult product, it’s designed to be an adult product, and we’ve been really consistent with our marketing to make sure that we stay above 18.”
On iloveblow.com, the product’s main website, consumers can purchase the product in packages with clear references to drug culture, such as the “12 vial brick,” the “recreational user pack” and the “fiender’s hook-up.”
One image on the site even has a drug-enforcement officer pointing a machine gun at a drug-laden speedboat.
It’s tongue-in-cheek, said Gola.
“We’re children of the ‘80s, we grew up on Miami Vice and Scarface, and that’s all part of the imagery that we’re spoofing,”
Reacting mainly to the drink’s “edgy” marketing campaign, a call for a Yukon ban was made last Thursday by Liberal Leader Arthur Mitchell.
“I’m a libertarian at heart; I don’t easily land on the side of preventing something, but this is simply a negative message to children that we don’t want out there and to me (iloveblow.com) is in the category of internet sites that promulgate racial hatred or violence,” said Mitchell.
“I don’t have a problem with an energy product; there’s all kinds out there … it’s the marketing.”
The petition to ban Blow has already collected more than 1,000 signatures from rural Yukon communities.
There are immediate plans to move the petition through Whitehorse, Yellowknife and First Nation communities.
Ultimately, it is expected to collect 10,000 signatures, said Moonen.
This is not the first time that an energy drink has sparked controversy.
Cocaine, a highly caffeinated energy drink launched in the US in 2006 was temporarily banned pending marketing changes that would play down the drink’s tagline as a “legal alternative.”
The newest energy drink controversy has been closely followed by Jamey Kirby, maker of the Cocaine energy drink.
“I took a look at the FDA letter condemning Blow and one of the things they cited is that ‘blow’ is a street name for cocaine. Well, they might as well make the same argument against Coca-Cola,” said Kirby, referring to ‘coke’, a slang term for both Coca-Cola and cocaine.
“They’re really reaching to try and corral products like these into a position where it seems like they’re promoting drug use.”
“It’s not like we’re being paid off by the cocaine cartels … people’s use of cocaine isn’t going to go up because of our product,” said Kirby.
Energy drink Red Bull (which contains one third the caffeine of Blow) was banned in Canada until late 2004 as a result of health concerns.
The drink finally became legal under renewed legislation regulating the drink as a “natural health product.”