By Laila Kearney
NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York on Friday became the most populous U.S. state to ban the sale of powdered alcohol, a controversial just-add-water beverage that opponents say will lead to a rise in underage drinking and abuses, officials said.
The new drink that comes in freeze-dried liquors like rum and vodka has gotten a swell of political pushback, with more than 20 states banning the beverage since federal regulators approved it in March.
"For every substance or drug that has been abused by people in our communities, we often look back and ask ourselves if there is anything we could have done differently to prevent a wave of addiction from reaching the point of no return," said state Senator Joseph Griffo, who sponsored the New York legislation.
Arizona-based Lipsmark LLC, the company approved by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau to sell the drink, called Palcohol, argues that its product is safer than liquid alcohol.
Supporters of the ban say Palcohol, which is sold in bags, is easier to conceal and carry around than the liquid beverage.
It is also easy to overload liquid with the powder, creating ultra strong drinks that can quickly cause unsafe levels of intoxication, they say.
"This dangerous product is a public health disaster waiting to happen,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a statement.
As of June, 22 states, including Alaska and Connecticut, have banned powdered alcohol, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, this year introduced legislation to ban powdered alcohol nationwide.
Palcohol founder Mark Phillips says regular liquid alcohol is more easily used to spike drinks and to binge drink with. Liquid alcohol is also less expensive than Palcohol and enables people to get drunk faster, qualities that appeal to underage drinkers, Phillips said on the product's website.
One package of the powder weighs about an ounce and contains the same amount of alcohol as a standard cocktail if mixed with six-ounces of liquid.
According to Palcohol's website, the powdered drink will be sold starting sometime in the summer months. It is only seeking distributors outside of the United States.
(Reporting by Laila Kearney; Editing by Andrew Hay)