Washington state announced today that it would ban the alcoholic energy drink Four Loko today, in response to the hospitalization of nine college students last month who were hospitalized after drinking the beverages. Several other states are considering a ban, and Washington’s Attorney General Rob McKenna has requested that the FDA reconsider the safety of the drinks, saying:
The wide availability of alcoholic energy drinks means that a single mistake can be deadly. If you’re a 135-pound woman [and] you drink two of these Four Lokos … you can reach the level of toxicity for alcohol poisoning.
Four Loko’s drinks contain 12% alcohol and are packaged in 23.5-ounce cans — that’s the equivalent of nearly five five-ounce glasses of wine, or just under five beers. (For the record, that’s officially enough to land us in front of our toilet for the night, if not an emergency room.) Unlike wine and beer, however, Four Loko enables drinkers to get more drunk by keeping them awake and energized. Six glasses of wine in; you’re usually ready for bed; after a can of Four Loko, you’re wide awake and able to continue drinking.
Phusion Projects, the company that produces Four Loko, issued an open letter to state and federal regulators, stating their concern for drinking safely and establishing industry-wide standards for caffeinated alcoholic beverages. But they also argue that product-specific bans are unfair, pointing out that other products with high alcohol content should be subject to the same concern:
If mixing caffeine and alcohol is the most pressing concern, addressing it would be best accomplished by creating laws that apply to the entire caffeinated alcoholic beverage category – not specific, individual products and not just beers or malt-based products. This is especially important given that liquor-based beverages have three to four-times the alcohol content as products like ours. If product-specific bans remain the preferred course of action, we will protect our rights as a business to the fullest extent of the law.
Is it fair to ban specific brands or beverages for their potential to cause alcohol poisoning, or is it up to the consumer to drink safely? Sound off in the comments section, below.