During the 2015 Legislative Session, the Maryland General Assembly Passed a Ban on the Retail Sale of Extreme-Strength (190 proof and above) Alcohol

Gov signing extreme-strength alcohol legislation

Fact Sheet

Extreme-Strength Alcohol Fact Sheet (PDF)

Extreme-Strength Alcohol Poses a Real Threat to College Students

Nationally, more than 1,800 college students die each year as a result of alcohol – a rate of nearly five per day.  Nearly 600,000 are injured; nearly 700,000 are assaulted; and nearly 100,000 are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault.1

  • In Maryland, approximately one in five college students meet the criteria for alcohol dependence or abuse, and one in three report having driven with a drinking driver.2
  • Extreme-strength alcohol poses a real threat to college students because:
    • They are more likely to drink distilled spirits than they were 20 years ago;3
    • They tend to “overpour” drinks,4 making a strong drink stronger in a student’s hands; and
    • The tasteless, odorless, colorless nature of extreme-strength alcohol makes it almost impossible for inexperienced or unsuspecting drinkers to know what they are drinking and adjust their behavior accordingly.
  • Underage binge drinkers are 36.5 times more likely to drink extreme-strength alcohol than underage non-bingers.5

Extreme-Strength Alcohol’s Low Price Makes It Even More Dangerous

  • Recognized by leading brand names Everclear and Gem Clear, grain alcohol is a distilled neutral spirit that lacks a distinctive taste or smell.
  • A 750ML bottle of Everclear or Gem Clear ranges in price from $15 to $17.
  • The federal government defines a “drink” as 1.5 ounces of 80 proof alcohol.6  A 750 ML (25.36 ounce) bottle of 190 proof grain alcohol contains approximately 16.9 drinks.
  • At $15 per bottle, this is less than a dollar a drink.

At Least 16 States Ban Sales of Extreme-Strength Alcohol

  • Maryland’s neighbors ban sales of extreme-strength alcohol, with limited exceptions for industrial, commercial, culinary, or medical uses:
    • Virginia: Banned above 101 proof or 50.5% ABV.7
    • Pennsylvania: Banned at or above 190 proof or 95% ABV.8
    • West Virginia: Banned at or above 190 proof or 95% ABV.9
  • Other states’ bans go much farther than S.B. 75, including:
    • California: Banned above 120 proof or 60% ABV.10
    • Florida: Banned above 153 proof or 76.5% ABV (sales and consumption).11
    • Minnesota: Banned above 160 proof or 80% ABV.12

Updated February 2015


  1.  Hingson RW, Zha W, Weitzman ER. Magnitude of and trends in alcohol-related mortality and morbidity among U.S. college students ages 18-24, 1998-2005. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, July (Suppl 16): 12-20, 2009. http://www.collegedrinkingprevention.gov/statssummaries/snapshot.aspx. Accessed October 28, 2013.
  2.  Maryland Collaborative to Reduce College Drinking and Related Problems. (2013). College Drinking in Maryland: A Status Report. Center on Young Adult Health and Development, University of Maryland School of Public Health, College Park, MD; and the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth, Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD. Available at www.marylandcollaborative.org/resources/docs/MDreport.pdf.
  3.  http://www.gallup.com/poll/163787/drinkers-divide-beer-wine-favorite.aspx). 
  4.  White, A. M., Kraus, C. L., Flom, J. D., Kestenbaum, L. A., Mitchell, J. R., Shah, K. and Swartzwelder, H. S. (2005), College Students Lack Knowledge of Standard Drink Volumes: Implications for Definitions of Risky Drinking Based on Survey Data. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 29: 631–638. Accessed October 25, 2013.
  5.  According to preliminary results from the first national survey to track youth alcohol consumption by brand.  E-mail correspondence from Michael B. Siegel, Boston University School of Public Health, to David Jernigan, 13 January 2014.
  6.  http://rethinkingdrinking.niaaa.nih.gov/ToolsResources/DrinkSizeCalculator.asp
  7.  VA Administrative Code Title 3 Agency 5 Chapter 70 §200 2013 http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?000+reg+3VAC5-70-200
  8.  Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board Regulations Title 40 PA CODE §11.3 A (2013)
  9.  Interview with West Virginia Alcohol Beverage Commission 2013
  10. Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 23403 (2013)
  11. Florida Code Title XXIV Alcohol Beverages and Tobacco Chapter 565.07 (2013)
  12. Minn. Stat. § 340A.506 (2013)
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