Spirits: Saved from the scourge of Four Loko
Well, thank God the FDA and FTC have stepped in and saved society from the Four Loko menace! Don't you feel much safer now? I mean, just this morning, I was already feeling so secure as I ate my barely cooked eggs (along with a side of Walmart-bought deli ham) and played Mortal Kombat with my 8-year-old. So it made me feel even better to know that our government is on top of sickly-sweet caffeinated alcoholic beverages served in tall boys. Four Loko quickly announced something to the effect of "Fine, We'll Take The Caffeine Out. Happy Now?"
As many know, the Four Loko backlash began after nine students at Central Washington University drank themselves cheaply and quickly into the hospital. Washington state quickly banned alcoholic energy drinks, which of course set off a buying spree among college students there. From there, the federal government felt moved to act, with regulators calling products like Four Loko a "blackout in a can."
Personally, I've had the displeasure of tasting a few cans of Four Loko, in the name of research, and think it's gross. But it's no more digusting than, say, Crunk Juice -- that cocktail of cognac and energy drink that's been popular since the early 2000s. I would ban both from my house, or my bar or restaurant (if I owned one). Still, I hardly think a few stupid college students drinking themselves sick seems grounds to ban the whole product. Some of the university students I teach love Four Loko, and no harm seems to come to them. Meanwhile, I've seen plenty of people -- young and old -- drink themselves into trouble on many many other things. In those cases, you can reasonably call vodka or Jagermeister "a blackout in a bottle." Should we ban vodka or Jagermeister?
A few readers of the Food section think that the government should not be involved in telling Americans what they can and cannot drink. To quote one from today's Free Range chat:
So will the FDA ban Irish coffees and similar drinks? What will clubs do that cater to the Gray (sic) Goose bottle service along with Red Bull do? I can't have a cognac with my coffee? Someone [needs] to investigate this nanny statism gone amuck. What an overeaction! Someone needs to get Chuckie Schumer drunk! Back in the good ole days ie late 70's you went to Shoppers and picked up a few gallons of fruit punch and then to the ABC store for some Everclear. 190 or whatever proof. It worked. Chicks got drunk. Better then (sic) Delta punch from Animal House.
Ok, so maybe that's not the best argument against the ban on Four Loko -- in fact, it's a frighteningly terrible argument. So I'll let Phusion Products, who produces Four Loko, make its own case:
We are taking this step after trying — unsuccessfully — to navigate a difficult and politically-charged regulatory environment at both the state and federal levels. ... We have repeatedly contended — and still believe, as do many people throughout the country — that the combination of alcohol and caffeine is safe. ... If it were unsafe, popular drinks like rum and colas or Irish coffees that have been consumed safely and responsibly for years would face the same scrutiny that our products have recently faced. ... By taking this action today, we are again demonstrating leadership, cooperation and responsible corporate citizenship.
Yes, I don't know about you, but I always equate Four Loko with "responsible corporate citizenship."
Grub Street Boston, channeling the voice of a college student, made perhaps the most compelling case against the FDA's ban.
Here's why this is a bad idea, guys. First off, history shows that forbidden fruits are always more appealing. Boom. Second, if Four Loko isn't going to come in a can, how are we supposed to insert it into our classroom cup-holders? If we get, like, tired during class we are going to learn less, obviously. That's just science.
It's just, like, can everyone stop being so uncool about this, please?
Some have suggested that this sounds a lot like the arguments people made in the early 20th century, leading up to Volstead Act, which ushered in Prohibition.
What, dear readers, do you think about the scourge of alchoholic energy drinks?
-- Jason Wilson
Wilson is the author of "Boozehound" (Ten Speed Press, 2010). He can be reached at jasonwilson.com. Follow him on Twitter.
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