MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. -- North Carolina's government-run Alcoholic Beverage Control liquor stores will soon stop selling pure grain alcohol, citing public health concerns of the 95 percent pure alcohol being abused by college age drinkers.

The move follows Mecklenburg County's ABC board's discovery that about 50 percent of the half gallons of pure grain alcohol were sold at only three of the county's 25 liquor stores, the stores closest to college campuses like the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

That's probably the most dangerous product we sell, said Mecklenburg ABC CEO Paul Stroup, adding that the product had redeeming social value.

Mecklenburg's ABC liquor stores have pulled quart and half-gallon containers of pure grain alcohol, sold under the brand names Everclear and Diesel, from ten stores and shifted the bottles to stores located farther from college campuses. Mecklenburg's ABC Board still sells pint bottles of pure grain alcohol at all stores but when the existing product is sold out, they won't be replacing it.

Soon the entire state of North Carolina will follow suit.

We appreciate Mecklenburg's leadership on this, said state ABC Commission Chairman Jon Williams.

In a memo distributed to ABC boards throughout the state, administrator Mike Herring said the state will begin de-listing pure grain alcohol on Wednesday, Dec. 1. That means North Carolina stores will no longer stock the products. Instead the sellers of Diesel brand liquor will no longer sell it in the state and the distributors of the Everclear brand will substitute a lower proof closer to 151 proof rums, Williams said.

The move comes two weeks after the NC ABC Commission stepped in to remove caffeinated alcoholic beverages in convenience stores, citing a public health threat to young drinkers.

This time the ABC is cleaning its own house, as pure grain alcohol is only sold legally in stores run by local towns, cities and counties. North Carolina is the only state to delegate the authority over liquor stores to the local level.

North Carolina's Public Health Director, Dr. Jeffrey Engel, has called the pure grain alcohol an attractive nuisance for younger drinkers.

I think it's the responsibility of government and municipalities to not grease the wheels for that kind of behavior, said Dr. Engel. We can put up certain barriers everyone can agree to.

In his memo to ABC boards, Mike Herring wrote that the state will continue to sell 190 proof alcohol by special order to customers who use it as an industrial solvent.

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