A alcoholic caffeine drink linked to crime in Scotland is about to be pitched to consumers in New Zealand.
However, the marketing of Buckfast, which offers drunkenness and portrays a young man holding two half-empty bottles of the fortified wine, has alarmed public health groups and prompted one to look into legal action.
Alcohol Healthwatch director Rebecca Williams said she "certainly would consider [action] but I'm still working through what the options might be - a complaint to the police and/or complaint to Advertising Standards Authority".
The buckfast.co.nz website describes Buckfast as a fortified "tonic" wine containing 15 per cent alcohol, "loaded with tons of sugar" and "a caffeine content which is apparently higher per millilitre than Red Bull".
"Buckfast is syrup-thick, tastes like a palatable mixture of Ribena and Benylin and gets you pretty uniquely trashed."
The legislation governing liquor sale, under the heading of "irresponsible promotion of alcohol", makes it unlawful to do anything likely to encourage people to consume an excessive amount of alcohol.
On Facebook, Lane's Foods, an Auckland grocery store with a bent for British products, invites punters to the "official launch of Buckfast in New Zealand" this Saturday.
In Scotland, a Labour MP has proposed restrictions on caffeinated drinks because of a link between Buckfast and crime identified among young male offenders in Scotland by the country's prison service.
"It found 43.4 per cent of those who admitted drinking before their last offence had consumed Buckfast tonic wine," a Press Association report said.
Some states in the US have banned prepackaged alcohol-caffeine drinks because of cases of alcohol poisoning.
In a 2010 news report, nature.com said it was unclear how caffeine and alcohol interacted in the brain, but it was known caffeine could mask the depressant effects of alcohol.
"People who mix the two can therefore end up 'wide awake drunk' and may be more likely to underestimate how intoxicated they are."
One study had found students who had drunk alcohol mixed with energy drinks in the previous 30 days were significantly more likely than others to engage in binge drinking.
Otago University researcher Professor Jennie Connor, of the Alcohol Action group, said some studies had found those who consumed caffeine/alcohol mixes were more likely to take risks such as driving after drinking.
Lane's owner Graham Lane was unaware of the public health groups' concerns and said he would tone down the website, including removing the "uniquely trashed" statement.
"We're not into promoting things like that. I think we got misguided with our marketing people on that one.
"When comparing to other drinks currently trending on the market, a Buckfast would have on average one-third of the alcohol content but the same caffeine content as a Vodka Red Bull."
"Although it states 'tonic wine' on the bottle there is a disclaimer under this that clearly states there is no medicinal benefit to drinking Buckfast -- a point we would like to stress."
He said Buckfast had been sold in New Zealand off and on for six years, but only in 750ml bottles. The grocery shop would sell those and 350ml bottles and 250ml cans to the bar/tavern market.