What are the marketers at MillerCoors thinking?

They’re thinking they will make a keg full of money, of course.

The indisputable fact that a new product will kill both gullible users and innocent bystanders has no impact on their collective corporate conscience. Like other breweries and liquor companies, they’ve been peddling poison with both impunity and immunity from prosecution for years.

Why should they pull back now on a sure-fire product that targets young customers?

No less than 25 state attorneys general have asked MillerCoors to back off on introducing “Sparks Red,” a new “energy drink” that tastes like candy but is laced with high doses of caffeine and other stimulants — plus an eight percent alcohol content, about twice the amount found in regular beer. The Center for Science in the Public Interest has filed suit against the company.

But, MillerCoors announced that it has no intention of changing its plans to introduce the drink Oct. 1, despite the clear and present danger. A 2007 study by Wake Forest University showed that students who combine energy drinks with alcohol are more likely to engage in binge drinking, ride with a drunk driver, and be taken advantage of sexually.

Alcohol alone is dangerous enough. Adding stimulants like caffiene leads drinkers to feel less drunk, prompting them to guzzle more to get their accustomed buzz, or to feel less drunk than they are and thus engage in risky behaviors like driving. Acknowledging the added danger, Anhaeuser Busch responded to a threatened lawsuit in June by removing caffiene and similar additives from its energy drinks, Bud Extra and Tilt. The company paid $200,000 to compensate 11 states for their investigation of the products and urged other companies not to package alcohol and caffiene together.

MillerCoors, however, appears determined to press forward with its dangerous new drink. Sparks Red, which reportedly tastes like the citrusy candy SweeTarts, has been heavily marketed toward students and young adults on the popular video website heavy.com, drawing additional fire for violating voluntary restrictions.

The executives at MillerCoors have to know that students will die as a result of drinking their product. Some will be sucked into lifelong alcoholism. Some will be sexually assaulted — or will do the assaulting — with life-altering consequenses.

Does this bother those who grow fat from exploiting addictions and immaturity?

Apparently not.

If you’re not already declining to patronize MillerCoors, this would be a good time to start.

Update: After indicating on Wednesday that it planned to press ahead despite opposition, MillerCoors announced Friday that it will put the introduction of Sparks Red on hold. Let’s hope the company has the good sense to shelve the product permanently, along with any other products or marketing campaigns directed at those who are most at risk of falling prey to the inherent dangers of alcoholic drinks.

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