THE Wall Street Journal recently published a story about the marketing of malt liquor to youthful drinkers in the inner city. According to the story, brewers are using rap heroes like Ice Cube and the Geto Boys to push such malts as Red Bull, St. Ides, Olde English 800 and King Cobra to black youths (many not old enough to legally purchase alcoholic beverages). Sales are aided by mom-and-pop stores where clerks look the other way when serving young customers, according to the report.
The malts, which have a higher alcohol content than beer (about 4.5 percent, to beer's 3.5 percent and wine's 13 percent), have become status symbols. "You're a man if you've got a 40 in your hand," said one youth counselor, referring to a $1.50, 40-ounce bottle of King Cobra.
There is one silver lining -- if you consider alcohol less dangerous than illegal drugs. Some health workers say the current popularity of malt liquor may be partly due to the success of drug education and treatment. Some young people have turned to malt liquor from crack cocaine, the use of which is said to be on the decline.