Christine Gregoire, the governor of Washington state, acted quickly to ban Four Loko after several college students ended up in the hospital as a result of drinking too many of the high-energy, high-alcohol-content beverages at Central Washington University. The FDA is also being pro-active and has issued a warning to manufacturers of four similar energy/alcohol drinks and has given the manufacturers fifteen days to stop making the drinks altogether.
In the convenience store by my home yesterday, the Korean grocer was surprised that all the remaining cans Four Loko had sold out, but said that there were some still available at other stores in the area.
A discussion ensued about whether or not the government should have a role in regulating the beverage industry—the man behind me who was asking for a can of Four Loko and the grocer both gave an emphatic “NO”, but I definitely have to disagree with both of them. According to THIS, each 24-ounce can of Four Loko is approximately the equivalent of 4-5 cans of beer, in addition to the caffeine that is added.
Imagine the effects of shot-gunning or beer-bonging a can of Four Loko and you will understand the dangers these drinks pose. College students typically don’t have the highest of tolerances and are already pressured into drinking more than they can while playing drinking games and participating in the “100 Club”. There is a huge difference between playing a drinking game with a can of PBR versus a can of Four Loko.
The FDA has a responsibility to the public to determine the safety of our food, drugs, and drinks. Period. If the students had been sick because of eating a bad hamburger, the FDA (or the appropriate agency-I’m not exactly sure how the hierarchy works here) would have performed an investigation into the fast food restaurant.
Why should an alcoholic beverage be any different?
The FDA has determined that the consumption of alcoholic beverages with caffeine could lead to “life-threatening situations”, partially because the drinkers will stay awake longer and presumably drink more alcohol.
College students are already known for copious amounts of binge-drinking, which has many health consequences and also leads to some dicey situations including drunk-driving and date rape. Is it really necessary to introduce drinks into the mixture that are both legal and even more dangerous than the average cocktail? Will the drinkers of alcoholic-energy drinks really have their civil liberties hurt that much by not being allowed to drink the dangerous drinks?
Actually, this is one of the instances where I am impressed with the decisiveness of the FDA for acting fast.