Drinking, Food

New From the Nanny State: Lawmakers Try to Protect Kids/Bros From Four Loko

At the demand of the commenters, I’ve spent most of my afternoon becoming familiar with Four Loko, the caffeinated, alcoholic beverage. Apparently I’m way too old-school. When I want a “high-octane” energy drink, I pour some Absolute Poverty out of my flask, mix it with a Red Bull, and get back to the craps tables.

But now we live in a world where you can get a premium malt beverage and an energy boost all from the same can. Who knew? Progress, baby!

Yet before I’ve even been able to get my hands on this product, there are lawmakers trying to take it away. It seems that this drink has been dropping fools like flies. There’s a story that nine (nine!) Central Washington University students were hospitalized after excessive consumption of the beverage. People would be calling Four Loko a date rape drug, except nobody can seem to stay on their feet long enough to have sex with anybody after they drink it.

As we all know, we live in a world where kids can’t be irresponsible and careless with their own well-being before the government wants to get involved. So Four Loko is now under scrutiny by the FDA…

Here’s what the Food and Drug Administration is saying about products like Four Loko, from the Los Angeles Times:

“The increasing popularity of consumption of caffeinated alcoholic beverages by college students and reports of potential health and safety issues necessitates that we look seriously at the scientific evidence as soon as possible,” Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, principal deputy commissioner of food and drugs, said in a statement at the time.

The L.A. Times also gets a quote from the Food Safety News website — a group of tight-asses I didn’t even know existed until this minute:

First, studies show that consumption of caffeinated alcoholic beverages in college students is associated with significantly increased heavy episodic drinking and episodes of weekly drunkenness…

Second, caffeine may lead people to underestimate how drunk they are, giving drinkers a false sense of sobriety.

Allow me to translate:

First, studies show that getting fall down drunk once a week is what we should be hoping our most responsible college students limit themselves too.

Second, mixers are cool.

I mean, really people? College students have been mixing caffeine and alcohol for decades. Maybe longer. Maybe ever since the first chemistry student learned what “soluble” meant and told his friends. Banning Four Loko isn’t going to stop this “trend.” Red Bull and Vodka, Irish Coffee, Rum & Coke, Long Island Ice-T, whatever the hell you are supposed to put Schnapps into to make it less feminine.

But here comes Washington Governor Chris Gregoire and state Attorney General Rob McKenna, waltzing in and acting like Four Loko is some kind of new scourge aimed at getting kids drunk. From the Seattle Times:

“It’s time to bring an end to the sale of alcoholic energy drinks,” McKenna said. “They’re marketed to kids by using fruit flavors that mask the taste of alcohol, and they have such high levels of stimulants that people have no idea how inebriated they really are.”

Oh please, if you wanna ban something that is really marketed to kids with the aim of getting them drunker than they think they are, how about fruity beers like Pete’s Strawberry Blonde — a beer the guy behind the counter at my college liquor store told me to purchase “if [I] want to get freshman girls too drunk at [my] party.” What about Mike’s Hard Lemonade (would be a date rape drink if it didn’t taste like total ass)? Or what about banning the Apple Martini — a drink I swear to God was invented by makers of Trojan condoms?

Somehow, Four Loko is supposed to somehow worse than all that? The makers of Four Loko might be smart, but they’re not that smart. Here’s the statement from the company:

In a statement on its website Tuesday, Chicago-based Phusion Projects says “no one is more upset than we are when our products are abused or consumed illegally by underage drinkers. … This is unacceptable.”

“But so too is placing blame for the incident squarely on Four Loko,” the company said, “when the police report, toxicology reports and witness testimony all show that other substances, including beer, hard liquors like vodka and rum, and possibly illicit substances, were consumed as well.”

Yeah, d’uh. If you start slamming back Four Loko’s, take down a couple of tequila shots (think about it, how could we live in a world where Four Loko was banned but TEQUILA — a drink even alcoholics will say “I don’t know, Patron makes me crazy” — is still perfectly okay?), you might end up in the hospital. I knew a bunch of people who had this happen to them in college — or as Darwin would say, “Elie knew a bunch of people he out competed in college.” The guy who goes too nuts goes to the hospital and you get to sleep with the date he showed up with. Isn’t that how natural selection works?

Kids, especially dumb-ass kids whose parents never exposed them to alcohol in appropriate and safe settings, will make mistakes when they get to college. Sometimes those mistakes will result in hospitalization. I’m still waiting for the part in the fact pattern where Four Loko is somehow more culpable for these hospitalizations than everything else that happens on college campuses.

But the FDA is going to look into it. Fine. But they better do their work quickly. Because right now, thanks to all the press coverage, if you are throwing a college Halloween party this weekend and you are not stocked up with Four Loko, your party is weak and everybody will make fun of you. Kids react a lot more quickly than the federal government on these issues. And if Four Loko really is that potent, it’s going to be everywhere.

And if it’s not, well then I guess they’ll just have to go back to dumping a gallon of grain alcohol into a carved watermelon and calling it a night once the diet pills wear off. You can’t stop college from happening, you can only make it harder for kids to get bombed in a relatively safe environment.

P.S. If there is not a six-pack of Four Loko waiting for me on my desk by Monday morning, I’m going to be all kinds of disappointed with the Above the Law readership.

Four Loko energy drink’s makers: CWU students misused our product [Seattle Times]
Washington State Officials Want To Ban Four Loko (WATCH) [Huffington Post]
Alcohol with a caffeine kick: Drinks like Four Loko come under scrutiny [Los Angeles Times]

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